If the very thought of Michael Moore--smart, funny, at least 50 pounds overweight--leaves you weak in the knees, you're going to love The Tao of Steve's Dex, who's adapted "the way" into "a way" of picking up chicks. As portrayed by Donal Logue, who made those annoyingly enjoyable "Jimmy the Cab Driver" promos for MTV a few years ago, Dex is a slothful lothario--a slothario. With a Hawaiian shirt draped over his prodigious gut, he makes his way through the world, stopping occasionally for an early-morning hit on his bong or a late-night raid on his refrigerator. "Doing stuff is overrated," the pot-bellied Buddha says when someone asks him why he hasn't made more out of his life. The thing is, he's done plenty...of women. When the movie opens, Dex is in the stacks of his old college library, bonking the wife of a friend while Plato, Aristotle and Saint Augustine look on. How does he do it? Well, if we're to believe this modestly entertaining romantic comedy, which is based on an actual friend of director/co-scripter Jenniphr Goodman, he does it by drawing on the combined wisdom of Lao-tzu, Søren Kierkegaard and Steves Austin, McGarrett and McQueen. Austin, in case you've forgotten, was the Six Million Dollar Man. McGarrett was the guy on "Hawaii Five-O." And McQueen, star of Bullitt and The Getaway, was the very embodiment of American cool--a man's man and a woman's man. Here's The Tao of Steve, boiled down to its essence: Ask not and ye shall receive. Of course, when it comes to not appearing interested (to the point of not being interested), Dex is a veritable Zen master. Then he meets--correction, remeets--Syd (Greer Goodman, the director's sister), an old college acquaintance who has her own way with the opposite sex. To the extent he can stretch that far, Dex is soon head over heels in love, and it throws him off his game--a game that, we've realized all along, he will have to give up in order to become, you know, human. One might have hoped that the makers of this independent film wouldn't take this familiar route, but the road to Hollywood is paved with good intentions.
I enjoyed The Tao of Steve. Logue has an easy-come-easy-go charm, and Goodman, as Farah Fawcett with a brain (and a mouth), gives every scene she's in an added spark. But the movie itself may have succumbed to its own philosophy of detachment. It's tame, even a little lame. I was never quite sure how much of Dex's rap was supposed to be real and how much was supposed to be total bullshit. To me, it all seemed like the intellectual equivalent of Frisbee golf, which may be the point and just happens to be one of Dex's favorite pastimes. A dating guide for guys who've let themselves go, The Tao of Steve suggests that the way to get laid is to get laid-back. I suppose that's possible, but a lot of Porsche owners would beg to differ.