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Refreshing and smart, "The Tao of Steve" serves up an overweight, underachieving Lothario who meets his match.

Romance Rated Gen-X

Here's the perfect antidote to "Whipped's" mean-spirited look at romance and gamesmanship. Charming and intelligent, "The Tao (or Way) of Steve" offers a Gen-X twist on the "When Harry Met Sally" traditional romance. Featuring smart and sassy dialogue and a winning central performance, "The Tao of Steve" is nearly impossible to dislike. Besides, where else are you going to find a screenplay that mingles equal amounts of "Josie and the Pussycats" with the likes of "Don Giovanni" and Buddhist existentialism?

But be forewarned, there's more pot-smoking here than in "Saving Grace." Which explains "Tao's" MPAA-affixed R rating, despite containing neither nudity nor violence of any kind.

The Steve of the movie's title is fictional. He's more of an ideal than a character, although he's the man Dex (Donal Logue) and his buddies aspire to become. To these guys, "Steve" is the prototypical American male embodied in two TV characters, Steve Austin (the bionic one, not the Stone Cold one) and "Hawaii-5-0's" Steve McGarrett, and one movie star, the immortal Steve McQueen.

Over 30 and overweight, part-time kindergarten teacher Dex believes that his amazing talent for getting attractive women into bed stems from his strict adherence to the "Tao of Steve." As we learn through the course of the movie, there are three main precepts to being a Steve:

1. Be desireless. When you're no Adonis, appearing to have no interest in an attractive woman supposedly intrigues her. She's soon asking herself "Why isn't he interested in me? I'm such a step up for him."

2. Be excellent (in her presence). Show off what you're best at in her presence, otherwise you're destined to become that modern-day version of the eunuch — "the friend."

3. Be gone. When you've got her intrigued, proven you've no interest in bedding her — it's time to leave. Do that, says Dex, and she'll come after you.

As good as that all sounds, except to one of Dex's Frisbee golf-playing buds who can't quite master lesson No. 1, we know from the minute Dex spies Syd (Greer Goodman) banging on the drums at their 10-year college reunion that all bets are off. Beautiful and smart, Dex senses instantly that she'll be impervious to his charms. In fact, without the aid of any "Steve-isms," Syd instinctively gives Dex back everything he's been unloading on women for years. She has no desire to become one of his conquests; she can match him philosopher for philosopher and obscure religious tract for obscure religious tract; and, almost as soon as he starts questioning his solitary existence, she's on her way back to New York.

Dex soon learns that his beloved but manipulation-based Steve Tao doesn't work as well with love as it does with scoring.

Director (and co-writer) Jenniphr Goodman moves the story along swiftly, showing a sure hand with her characters as well as the gorgeous Southwestern landscape. Incredibly, she avoids the predictable until the movie's very end. Logue, who won the Sundance Special Jury award for his performance as Dex, shows an equal assurance. Whether Dex is singing and dancing with his students or trading quips and philosophical bon mots with Syd, Logue charms us. Greer Goodman (who co-wrote the refreshingly smart screenplay with sister Jenniphr and Duncan North) makes a promising debut as the frankly self-possessed Syd.

Despite being an independent film, "The Tao of Steve" is quite conventional. Especially when it comes to whether or not "boy gets girl" after meeting and then losing her. Filled with hip and funny insights into relationships and those libido-boggling gender differences, "The Tao of Steve" has its sweet moments as well. You'll laugh, you'll be entertained; what you won't be is enlightened.

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