Gymkata is so deliciouly awful, so horribly moronic, we're positve that when MGM studio execs greenlit the project, somewhere, trillions of light years away, a planet exploded. Apparently, someone in 1985 thought it would be a great idea to hire Kurt Thomas to headline a movie. (That person is probably living at the Y today.) Young Thomas — a champion gymnast who got stiffed out of an Olympic appearance because of the 1980 boycott — delivers his lines like he just emerged from a coma ten seconds prior to filming.
But beyond our star's’ lack of thespian talent, the real challenge proved to be crafting a suitable vehicle that would showcase his impressive floor routines. Thus, the skill of "gymkata" was born - a hybrid of martial arts and... well... somersaults. This awkward-looking claptrap is shoe-horned into the skeletal framework of a 1957 book called "The Terrible Game" along with a love story where the girl speaks, perhaps, nine consecutive words during the entire film. The cherry on top was bringing in martial arts action film director Richard Clouse, (most noted for helming the Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon.) Of course, Thomas is to Bruce Lee what a Barbie Power Wheels is to Optimus Prime.
This laugh-a-minute reimagining of the book, "The Terrible Game" is actually The Most Dangerous Game, as designed by the President's Council on Physical Fitness. It requires the player to run around and climb a rope, and we're told that only a select few can meet this grueling challenge: either world-class gymnasts, like American champion Kurt Thomas, or 11-year olds who've passed sixth-grade gym.
The film opens with an angry white man -- Kurt's dad, (who's apparently playing on the Terrible Game Senior Tour) -- attempting to cross the rope bridge at Camp Snoopy. Villain Richard Norton (we know he's evil because he's wearing Sonny Bono's sheepskin vest from Wild on the Beach) shoots an arrow into Kurt's dad, who falls to his death. Cut to the United States, where the Olympic Games are being held in what looks like a high-school auditorium. American champ Thomas dismounts the parallel bars, and is immediately recruited by the CIA to play The Game, which is held in Parmistan, a mountain kingdom ruled by "the Khan." Kurt will be trained by Princess Ruballi, the Khan's daughter, and even though she spends the first half of the film attempting to do grievous harm to his groin (knee it, stab it, rope-burn it, etc.), Ruballi eventually becomes Kurt's love interest, because she's the only person in the film who's shorter than he is.
Kurt and the Princess white-water raft into Parmistan, where they're promptly attacked by Himalayan ninjas (clad in black Dr. Dentons). Hopelessly outnumbered, Kurt unleashes the secret martial art of Gymkata, and manages to overcome his assailants using the deadly power of Olga Korbut's compulsory floor routine from the '72 Olympics. Once in the capital, Kurt and the other competitors meet the Khan, (apparently a member of The Davy Crockett Hair Club for Men), who explains the rules: Basically, you run around and climb on various pieces of playground equipment until someone shoots you with an arrow. If Kurt wins, the U.S. will be allowed to build a "Star Wars" satellite-tracking station in Parmistan. If Kurt loses, he will be killed in the traditional way: shot with an arrow while playing the "Smack the Mole" game at a Chuck E. Cheese.
The next morning, the Khan announces that Sheepskin will wed Princess Ruballi after the game, with a reception to follow at a Medieval Times restaurant franchise. Then the competitors are off and running. Amazingly, Kurt makes it across the rope bridge without getting arrowed, and enters "The Village of the Damned," (a planned community for the criminally insane.) No one has ever escaped alive from this blood-soaked bedlam, and it is soon apparent why. In short order, Kurt is attacked by a man with a sickle, beaten to a pulp by a pack of Italian grandmothers, and mooned. Finally, the entire populace converges on Kurt, shrieking and waving various farm implements as they surround him in the village square. Fortunately, next to the communal well is the communal pommel horse. Leaping onto it, Kurt manages to kill the axe-wielding maniacs with a quick and deadly series of Magyar and Sivado cross-travel variations.
The surviving villagers give Kurt a 9.2.
The crazed peasants chase Kurt into a blind alley, where, surprisingly, one of the Himalayan ninjas reaches down and pulls Kurt to safety. The ninja then peels back his black mask to reveal that he is, in fact, . . .Kurt's father! (It turns out that he wasn't killed in that fall after all, just maimed.) Their tearful reunion is interrupted when Sheepskin shoots dad with an arrow ...again! Springing into action, Kurt heroically jumps onto a horse ... and rides away.
Sheepskin catches up to our fleeing hero and gives him a well-deserved thrashing. But Kurt cleverly goes into "rope-a-dope," outlasting his opponent until they get to the page in the script where it says he wins. Sheepskin takes a dive, and Kurt proudly rides back into town with Dad, who's been maimed some more, but is otherwise just fine. Now, at last, everyone knows the truth: Sheepskin is a traitor, and Kurt's dad is Rasputin. Oh ..., and Kurt wins The Game -- but it's anyone's guess as to exactly how.
As for my little Jimmy? As soon as Mommy's head gets clear, she's going to start looking into good military schools.