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THE TAO OF STEVE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Donal Logue, Greer Goodman
Director:  Jenniphr Goodman
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features: Commentary Track, Talent Files, Trailer
Length:  86 Minutes
Release Date:  March 20, 2001

Film ***1/2

The Tao of Steve is one of those rare films that proves there’s such a thing as an intelligent and different romantic comedy.  In fact, I almost hesitate to call it ‘romantic comedy’ because its so much smarter than the typical one that comes off of Hollywood’s assembly line.  Yet, that’s what it is, because at the core of the story is a man, a woman, and the classic ‘will they or won’t they’ dilemma.  It’s not different in the grand design, but rather, the little details.

Dex (Logue) is the kind of guy that, by his own admission, shouldn’t have any luck with women.  He’s obese and lazy, has only a part time job, and likes to smoke pot, hang out with his friends, and chill.  Yet the women come, one right after the other.  His secret?  The Tao of Steve.

Steve is not just a name, but an attitude.  “All the cool guys are named Steve,” he insists.  Steve McGarrett.  Steve Austin.  And, of course, the ultimate Steve, Steve McQueen.  These men represented the ultimate American man…and according to Dex, being that is not about how you look or what you have.  It’s all a state of mind.

“We pursue what retracts from us,” he teaches his friends.  If you want to be with a woman, in other words, what you have to do most is NOT want to be with her.  There’s more to the Tao, of course, but I’ll leave that philosophical journey for you to discover, as I did.  The bottom line:  Dex knows his Oriental philosophy backwards and forwards, and the Tao of Steve works for him.

At a college reunion, he meets up with Cyd (Goodman), a girl he slept with but now has no memory of.  Needless to say, that fact doesn’t sit well with Cyd, whose initial disdain for Dex seem to give her immunity to the Tao of Steve.  And true to his philosophy of pursuing what we cannot have, Dex begins to fall in love with her.

They do not start with what Roger Ebert calls the “meet cute”—the initial omen of doom for the typically unoriginal romantic comedy, and therefore, what follows is far from the typical mindless love story banter.  The conversations are funny and smart, filled with real ideas from every source imaginable:  philosophy, religion, the pursuit of happiness…even the occasional guacamole stain.

The point is, there was much at work in The Tao of Steve.  I enjoyed it while I watched it.  I liked it even better afterwards the more I thought of it.  Which is what sets this movie apart from other romantic comedies more than any other asset:  exactly how many of them inspire you to think at all?

Video ***1/2

Despite being a low budget film, The Tao of Steve boasts a rich, colorful transfer with good sharpness and detail throughout and an absence of grain or other distractions along the way.  Occasionally, I thought flesh tones were a bit too yellowish to be natural, but that’s the only complaint.  There’s no bleeding, no shimmer, and no image break-up.  Even darker scenes maintain a strong sense of visual integrity.  High marks.

Audio ***

Though a simple 2 channel surround mix, the audio for The Tao of Steve serves it well:  dialogue is very clear and strong throughout, as is the soundtrack of terrific and appropriate songs.  I noticed no distortions or noises along the way, although discreet use of the rear stage is fairly non-existent and dynamic range is only marginal.  This is not meant to be a speaker rattling audio track; it delivers exactly what is required and delivers it well.

Features **1/2

I really enjoyed the commentary track with director Jenniphr Goodman, co-stars Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, and Duncan North (who not only co-wrote the film, but was the inspiration behind it).  My favorite commentary tracks are always the ones for the low budgeted or independent films, and this one is no exception.  It’s a funny, informative and entertaining listen.  There are also talent files for Goodman and Logue, and a trailer, plus a DVD ROM weblink.

Summary:

Be desireless.  Be excellent. Be gone.  Most of all, be Steve.  The Tao of Steve mixes fantasy philosophy with equal parts heart and brain, resulting in a thoroughly smart, amusing, and original romantic comedy.  If you believe such a thing no longer exists, then you really owe it to yourself to give this disc a spin.