The Tao of Steve (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Before yesterday, I would have said there are only about three romantic comedies worth watching.

Make it four. What the hell happened to this film? It won some awards at Sundance, then disappeared with barely a trace.

Not too slick, but very funny movie about the manipulation games that men use to seduce women. Dex, the star of the film, is to seduction as Penn Gillette is to magic. He's big, smart, articulate, funny, a master of his trade, and willing to tell you how he does his tricks. He was cocky and good-looking when he was an undergrad, but as a 30ish slacker with a severe weight problem, he's found an even better way to get chicks - through the principles of the Tao, as filtered through the cool of Steve McQueen.


The principles can be summed up as follows:

1. Eliminate desire. Don't pursue women. Act like you don't want them. People want when they can't have.

2. Be excellent in their presence. When they are looking, do something that you do well. (Luckily for us, what he does well is be witty)

3. Retreat from them. The more you pull away, the more they will want you.

He combines these basic principles with constant lectures on how the process works. When women ask, he explains the cons and ruses that men use, and he also tells the truth about his own cons, if they are interested and willing to listen to it.

After years of smoking dope, living a hippie existence with his New Mexico roommates, and working as a part-time day care provider, he's accomplished nothing of substance, but is the respected all-time Steve. (The Man of the Tao is summed up as "Steve" - Steve McGarrett or especially Steve McQueen, the guy who never chases the girl but gets them all anyway. "Stu" is the anti-Steve. ) Men come to him for advice and counseling, as he is the Dalai Lama of the branch of Tao known as Stevism.

His principles are sorely tested when he runs into a woman who sees through all of his scams, and is not charmed by his customary admissions of fraudulency. She is his intellectual equal, and provides him with the first woman worth pursuing. Does he turn into a lap dog, or does he Steve it through? Or maybe he finds a place in between those positions, in the Taoist reconciliation of opposites.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85

  • full-length commentary

Possibly the best romantic comedy since "When Harry Met Sally", a pleasure for just about every moment of screen time.

Possibly the coolest, savviest script ever written and directed by women.

You don't see a lot of films that crack you up constantly, tell the absolute truth about relationships, and actually include intelligent people saying intelligent things without boring you to death. When you find one, worship at its feet.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 76.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. The best ever? 93% positive overall, and a perfect 100% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.2, Apollo users 87/100. These scores are actually a bit better than the three stars average from the top critics.
  • With their dollars ... a paltry $4 million. I think this movie would make money if marketed properly.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B+. Terrific romantic comedy, with great entertainment value, and crackling wirth intelligence and honesty.

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