Dex (Donal Logue) is a fat, irresponsible, pot-smoking slacker with no ambition. But he is so charming that women cannot resist him. And neither can the viewers. Dex may have no ambition, but he has no pretention, either. He has a wonderful command of repartee covering everything from Lao Tzu to Josie and the Pussycats. And he has a system for seducing women that is just about foolproof. As he explains to his friend Dave, there are three rules. First, “Eliminate your desire.” Women cannot let down their defenses as long as they sense that a man is trying to get them into bed. Second, “Do something excellent in their presence, thus demonstrating your sexual worthiness.” Third, “Retreat.” This is the titular “Tao of Steve,” named for Dex’s three polar stars, $6 million man Steve Austin, Hawaii 5-0 cop Steve McGarrett and the greatest Steve of them all, Steve McQueen. Channeling these Steves allows Dex to feel cool. And smoking marijuana every morning and having a lot of one-night stands allows him to feel less purposeless, or maybe it just allows him not to feel very much at all.
Then, he attends his 10th college reunion, where he has sex with a classmate’s wife, makes a date with a student tending the bar, and is re-introduced to Syd (co-screenwriter Greer Goodman). She has come to town to design sets for a production of “Don Giovanni” (Don Juan). Dex begins to think that he might be a little like Don Giovanni, who “slept with thousands of women because he was afraid he wouldn’t be loved by one.” He tells Dave to ignore all of his advice: “I’ve been trying to turn you into me and I’m not sure even I want to be me anymore.”
This is a classic “the love of a good woman inspires a man to grow up at last,” but it is a sweet, funny romantic comedy with appealing characters and witty dialogue. Logue, a character actor in movies like “Steal this Movie,” “The Runaway Bride,” and “The Patriot,” is wonderful. According to the credits, the screenplay is “Based on a story by Duncan North” which is “Based on an idea by Duncan North,” which is “Based on Duncan North.” North appears on the movie’s website answering questions about love and relationships.
Parents should know that the movie has drug use and a lot of drinking and smoking. Dex has an affair with a married woman, the wife of a good friend. Although the resolution of the movie has Dex becoming more mature, the movie makes immaturity (to the point of hedonism) seem very appealing. Dex cites St. Augustine’s famous, “Lord make me chaste — but not yet.” Although it is clear that Dex’s behavior does not make him very happy or proud of himself and it hurts the woman he seduces, teen-agers may come away with the same conclusion.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Dex went from the brilliant and promising student his classmates remember to a philosophy that “doing stuff is overrated.” Talk about his quote: “the sage, because he never does anything, never ruins anything,” and ask whether that is possible. Why is it that Dex’s behavior does not make him happy, and why doesn’t he change? What is he afraid of? Why does he feel differently about Syd? Why does she put up with him? Is Dex right when he says that romance is our national religion?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Next Stop Wonderland.”