'The Tao Of Steve'

Welcome to the Zen world of Dex, a fat and lovable young man who shares his secrets of scoring in the Sundance smash, "The Tao of Steve." According to Dex, the rules of attraction are simple and straightforward. Rule one: Be desireless because "chicks are like hunters." Rule two: Do excellent things in front of her to demonstrate "sex-worthiness." And always remember the essential truth: "We pursue that which retreats from us."

"The Tao of Steve" may be the only comic love story in recent memory to so unabashedly quote Heidegger. But given a script laden with heavy philosophizing and a set populated by actors who look like average-Joe Americans, first-time director Jenniphr Goodman exhibits a subtle grace that belies her inexperience. For a film with such a small budget, the results are impressive.

Donal Logue, whose verve and authenticity won him the special-jury acting award at Sundance this year, uses his teddy-bear appeal to carry the tale of a part-time Santa Fe pre-school teacher who has an uncanny ability to land uncommonly gorgeous women. His underachieving lifestyle may consist of bong hits, poker games and philosophy pleasure reading, but Dex is no slouch. In fact, it is from the wisdom of the ancient and not so ancient thinkers, including Lao-tzu and Kierkegaard, that Dex has cobbled together his own surprisingly effective New Age philosophy.

Dex's decision to name his girl-getting shtick after Steves everywhere conveys the film's main message. In one of the film's wittiest sequences, he explains "the-cool-that-is-Steve" by listing iconic Steves from character Steve Austin (of "The Six Million Dollar Man" fame) to actor Steve McQueen, complete with snippets of soundtracks from their films and television shows. To Dex, Steve is someone whose confidence and cool make him a kind-hearted, latter day Don Juan--even if he happens to possess a pronounced girth and regular guy exterior.

Although a little too small budget at times--the supporting cast is less colorful than hoped for and the set seemingly uninspired--the film's payoff lies in its ability to show authentic human emotion. There's not a silicone breast or a nightclub in sight. At the end, the audience has laughed their way through real-life's all-too-resonant woes as Dex ultimately learns that true love and game playing don't mix. It is at that moment that he finally begins to grow up.