It Jumps, It Squeeks,
It Reviews Strange Movies

GYMKATA (1985)

      I don't get the Olympics.
      Or more precisely, Olympians. Train all twenty to twenty five years of your life to compete in a game that doesn't pay anything? Even if you win the Gold, how impressed will people be ten years from now when they see you wearing the medal with your McDonald's uniform?
      It is possible to build a gold medal into a post-Olympics career, but you'd better already have the movie star looks if you want more than your picture on a Wheaties box. Mark Spitz, the '72 gold medal swimmer, made a lot of endorsements. Unfortunately, he had all the acting skills of an Olympic gold medal swimmer. He never spoke lines even in ads, as he read every word on the cue cards as. If. It. Was. A. Sentence. If you remember the '80s, you may remember that ad with gold medal skier Suzy Chaffee: "Call me...Suzy Chapstik!" Her delivery wasn't much better than Spitz's, and she came across more as Suzy Dipstick. Gold medal gymnast Cathy Rigby had a bunch of ads, though I can't remember for what, gold medal skater Peggy Fleming had a long career in the star-studded world of Disney on Ice, and of course Dorothy Hamill had a very successful hairstyle. The only Olympian that I know that tried his hand at actual Hollywood stardom was gold medal triathlete Bruce Jenner. His career went into full flower with that beloved musical and ball-peen hammer to the jaw, Can't Stop The Music starring the Village People. I don't know about the music, but it sure put a stop to Jenner's career. While it probably wasn't a good idea to make a disco movie a few years after anybody liked disco, at least he was smart enough to dip his toe into the Hollywood waters by trying a comedy first. Not so bright was gold medal gymnast Kurt Thomas. Or, as he's billed on the video's cover, "World Champion Kurt Thomas the Master of GYMKATA"
      Kurt decided to try his hand at Hollywood by becoming a two-fisted, hard-as-nails action hero who's the master of a deadly fighting style based on the second-gayest Olympic sport. I suppose that it's a step up from a movie starring a Master of Figure Skatingata, but when you hear the word "gymnast" do you think, "Man, I'd better not rile up that dude! He can BACKFLIP!" Wait, a Master of Figure Skatingata could put the skates on his hands and cut you up while you're blinded by the sequins on his outfit! And, holy shit, hockey players could learn it! If I saw a Skatingata Master wearing a Maple Leafs jersey, I'd run up to him with a case of Molson to stay on his good side! So while figure skating is a gayer sport, Gymkata would be the gayer martial art.
      But there's still a credibility problem here--How much training goes into being the master of something you just made up? I'm gold medal Splutilist Bill Young, Master of YAMKATA! Be there a man among you more skilled than I in the ancient martial art of bopping people with sweet potatoes? I thought not, dogs!

      Gymkata is based on a book titled "The Terrible Game." There is truth in advertising here.

      Gymkata begins with a close-up of Kurt Thomas while the groaning cellos of Alfi Kabiljo's score throb menacingly. For Kurt Thomas is truly menacing! Look at his steely eyes! Behold his firm jaw! Gaze upon his covering of chalk dust! OH NO! Some little dude with an '80s blow-dried feather cut just grabbed Kurt by the NECK and is BOUNCING UP and DOWN on him!! Quick, Kurt, use your Gymkata--Waitaminnit. The guy with the haircut's Kurt! That first guy with the chalk dust is a parallel bar! Hey, honest mistake. If you've seen Kurt's acting abilities, you'd confuse him with a piece of wood, too.
      "Hello to you! I am for to be the production designer, and my name, it is Veljko Despotovic!" Veljko? Kibiljo? The credits aren't over and I already suspect that this movie was filmed in Yugoslavia or Yamsylvania.
      Kurt lazily spins on his parallel bar, then dismounts and GETS TRAMPLED BY STAMPEDING HORSES! Wow, that was a short movie. I guess that I'll--Wait! Kurt's back! What happened to the horses? WHOA, Nelly, there they are again! Kurt, use your Gymkata before they trample you again--Wait, why's he back on the parallel bars? AUUGGGHH! The horses are back! Oh...They're cutting between him and a bunch of horses somewhere. And they do it six times. Please, no--not another endlessly repeating movie like Dead Men Don't D!e. If someone yells "DUMBALLAH!" I'm so out of here.

      I guess we're going to stay with the horsies now. "It's the Attilla the Hun Show!" ("I want you kids to get a head!") A bunch of ninjas are galloping along, led by a white guy with a sword and one of those furry vests one normally associates with the Frankenstein Monster or Sonny Bono. I get it! We're in Medieval Japan! The ninjas are going to train Kurt's distant ancestor, Sonny Thomas, to be the first Master of Gymkata! What an epic story arc. Waitaminnit--They're chasing a guy in a t-shirt and green sweat pants. I get it! He's a time traveler! Oh boy, time travel and ninjas in just the first two minutes! All this movie needs is Dawn Wells in a bikini riding a robot dinosaur and it'll be perfect!

      Sweat Pants Man comes to a high river gorge, and begins climbing across it by a suspended rope. Sonny Vest Man and his Ninjas swarm around, and Sonny Vest says, "Come along, Cabot!" Cabot Sweat Pants barks "I'm trying to play the GAME! Now BACK OFF!" just like an angsty 14-year-old with an X-Box refusing to give up use of the TV to his sister. "And you believed the fool!" says Sonny apropos the voices in his head and shoots an arrow into his leg. "YEEEARRGGHH!" says Cabot, and he falls--and yeearrgghhs--in slo-mo. Dude. This game sucks! In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's A Terrible Game!

      His "Yeearrgghh!" is blended into the applause Kurt is getting at his gymnastic performance (in slo-mo) 500 years in the future. Oooh, artsy! Just so you know who to blame, the director is Robert Clouse, which I think is short for "crab louse."
      Know what's more boring than gymnastics? Slo-mo gymnastics. But they must be starving for entertainment in this town, as they're cheering wildly and the place is packed. Actually, there's about 20 people and it's shot to make it look bigger, but the "gym" is in total blackness beyond a few yards, so it doesn't really look all that much bigger.

      Now, at Kurt's house, we see him hold up a picture of him and--Cabot! Wait, there's no time travel in this movie at all! What a rip! I bet they screw me over with the robot dinosaur, too! "I remember all the hours Dad and I spent out there," Kurt says to a Goverment Agent. He asks Kurt, "Did you like it?" "Sure!" "Because for the next two months you're going to be toughening your mind and your body. It's going to make your Olympic training look like fingerpainting!" I've transcribed every line of dialogue spoken in this movie thus far. It's like everybody's reading from different pages of the script. Agent makes a little Queen Elizabeth wave at two guys outside, a Chinese Kung Fu Master type and a big black guy who looks like that level boss in Nintendo's "Kung Fu." "Those men among others will train you" he lies, as this movie doesn't hire any more actors to play the "others." "Any questions?" "None." Hey, are you taking questions from the audience? "What the fuck's going on?" comes to my mind.

      Another question is why Kurt and Agent suddenly, magically change into different clothes. "Do you know who this is?" asks Agent of a picture of a guy with a fur hat and a nose like a cucumber. Here's a pretty good likeness:

Well, I guess if I can't have robot dinosaurs I'll settle for a demented lawn gnome. "That's the Khan of Parmestan." Isn't that where they make the cheese? No, wait, that's Parmesan. And they pronounce it "Par-MEE-stan," just like Pakeestan or Afghaneestan. Wee, Eee, an Afghanee! The box credits this guy as the "Kahn," so maybe he's related to Madeline Kahn. Since Paremstan is "a mountain country in the Hindu Kush," the Gnome King is played by a guy named "Buck." Parmestan is played by Serbia, so don't expect the extras to look very Hindu-Kushian.

      "Do you know who this is?" says Agent of Sonny Vest Man. "He's Zemir [or Emir or Lemur or Zima, the sound level in this scene is really low]. He's planning to overthrow the Khan and sell the country to The Other Side." You haven't visited scenic, bucolic, putrid smelly rancid Parmestan yet, but if The Other Side buys it for more than a dollar, they got gypped. "He's a viper. And your welfare is of no concern to him." What a great guy! I'm a (Thought)viper, too, and I already don't give a yam about Kurt's welfare.

      "We're interested in Parmestan for one reason: Location [location, location!]. A Star Wars satellite station in Parmestan could monitor allll the other satellites in the sky!" Huh? The fuck? Why, is Parmestan 200 miles high? Is there a great big hole in the middle that goes through the Earth so that it can see China? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. This is the best excuse they could make up for Kurt to play The Terrible Game?

      "It would be the ultimate early warning system in case of nuclear attack. In our hands, the system would save millions of lives. But if it fell into the wrong hands..." "...It would destroy whole nations!" says Kurt. Huh? How? How's a Commie early warning system going to destroy whole nations? Instead of Star Wars, they'll build the Death Star? Will they drop bombs down the big hole? Roll boulders down the 200-mile-high mountain? Okay, now this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

      "Why don't we send in the troops?" asks Kurt. Oh, violence is your answer for everything! Actually, it almost makes sense. Their army is guys on horses with swords. A drunken local NRA chapter could take the country over in an hour. But no, there's a much more crafty and retarded plan. "Everyone who enters Parmestan must play...The Game! If he wins, he's allowed his life--and one request!" NEW dumbest thing I've ever heard! EVERYbody who enters must play? Even babies? So, the guys who'll be building the Star Wars thing will all have to play? And the request--What if someone asks for something impossible for Parmestan to supply, which in that country could be a working toilet or someone who's bathed in their lifetime? It's The Terribly Stupid Game!

      Other countries are sending in their own guys to play The Game, and since "No outsider has won The Game in over NINE HUNDRED YEARS!" I guess that the entire world figured out how important Punkestan was just today. But America has a secret edge--the ability to instantly change clothes, as Agent and Kurt are back in the clothes they were wearing at the beginning of the scene, and an expert in The Game: "Meet--the PRINCESS RUBALI of Parmestan!"

      Of course, being the designated babe in an action picture, the Princess has huge, firm, perfectly rounded

...Cheeks. Hey, Alvin, where's the rest of the Chipmunks? You must be be able to store a whole bag of peanuts in each of those!

      The Princess holds up a rope, saying nothing. "Oh, a game?" asks Kurt, secretly hoping she's into bondage. She slips the rope around his hands, punches him in the nuts, drags the rope across his crotch and around his neck, smashes him into the wall and his head goes KLUNK! and karate chops him and walks away without a word. Apparently she's a movie critic.

      Now begins Kurt's training that's harder than fingerpainting, although fingerpainting's harder than writing this script. Remember that "Gonna Fly Now" training montage in Rocky that ended with that indelible image of Rocky running up the stairs and thrusting his arms in the air triumphantly? Well, I got yer indelible image right here, pally: Kurt going up the stairs and thrusting his ASS in the air. The first part of his training consists of him walking up the stairs on his hands. There's a valuable skill for hand-to-hand combat. I mean, even a ninja wouldn't want to risk walking face-first into Kurt Thomas' gold medal winning heinie. His training also includes chopping wood. Because a ninja might attack him with a tree. Master of Abe Lincolnata!
      Kung Fu Master Guy has some good advice: "Dere are many sound aroun' us, each slightly different. Do not hear de wood split, hear de only sound of ax! It have much say to you!" Yeah, thanks, there's advice you can take to the fuckin' bank. For no particular reason, he's holding a giant falcon, and in the next scene Black Kung Fu Man is riding a horse. Maybe these are the "others" who're supposed to be training Kurt. The falcon will teach him how to catch mice with his feet, and the horse will teach him how to poop while walking. Then he tries to walk up the stairs on his hands again. Don't use the knowledge the horse gave you right now, Kurt!
      The Princess is supposed to be leading his training, but so far all she's done is stare at him from a window. Kurt's uspet because she still hasn't said a word to him. Black Guy--if they gave either of the trainer characters names, they haven't used them--says, "She has a very interesting background!" Yeah, Baby got Background! "Her mother was Indonesian!" Wow. Boy. That's mighty powerfully interesting there, big guy. Given those cheeks, I thought her mother was a woodchuck. I suppose this line is to explain why she's the only person in Parmestan who looks vaguely Asian. Her father's played by Buck, and she's played by Tetchie Agbayani. Which I think is the Indonesian version of the names of her parents, John Tesh and Yanni. Maybe that's why she doesn't speak, she's too embarrassed. Oh, sorry, that wasn't Black Guy talking, but Agent Guy. Nice edit. Kurt's been trained with a "special blend of Eastern kung fu and Western fighting styles--You know karate and your own gymnastic style!" Say it! Say the name of the movie! But they don't. How are they ever going to make Gymkata a household word? For a start, they could STOP WITH THE STAIR-WALKING SCENES. Christ, can you imagine what this was like in the theaters, seeing a 30-foot-wide Kurt Thomas ass wobbling across the screen? Fortunately, Kurt finally makes it up the stairs this time and Kung Fu Guy grabs him by the ankles and screams "YETTERA YETTER YAAAHH!" and it looks like some deranged Japanese fetish video. The scene ends before Kung Fu Master pees on Kurt while dressed as Sailor Moon.

      Kurt tries to talk to Princess Rubali but she doesn't respond. So like any good Gymkata master, he does a back flip then talks in a girly voice. "Good morning, Jonathon! You look handsome as always!" Then backflips again and asks in his own somewhat less girly voice, "How did you sleep last night?" Silence. Dude, try talking to her in Squirrel. Offer her an acorn or something. He backflips AGAIN, because no movie can have enough backflips in my opinion, and falsettos "Like a log!" Why, yes, I would like one! I hear that they're better than bad, they're good! She smiles at him in the same way babies with gas do, so he takes this as his cue to kiss her and she takes it as her cue to pull a knife on him. But I guess that backflipping guys who talk like girls is her special turn-on, because she throws the knife into Kurt. Oh, wait, a plank of wood, I keep making that mistake. And just as you think "That knife looks like they pulled it out of Kur--the plank, and just ran the film backwards," you get to see the string they used to pull it out. What makes this movie work is the attention to detail.

      Agent is telling Kurt and Repella about their trip to Parmestan, his training now completed because he walked up the stairs. Kurt is making goo-goo eyes at the Princess; apparently they're in love, attracted by each other's total lack of a personality. Agent is annoyed that Kurt's not paying attention, so he asks "Jonathon, what town are you going to?" and Kurt says "Karabal, on the Kaspian Sea." Then he and the Princess get in bed and have some hot gymnast-on-chipmunk action! Kurt sticks his tongue in her mouth, and when he takes it out, it's covered with half-eaten acorns.

      Through pure movie magic we're transported to Yugoslavia, or, as the title on the screen says, "Karabal, on the Kaspian Sea." I surprised that they didn't add "The Town Jonathon's Going To."
      From a boat (in the Kaspian Sea, near Karabal), Kurt points out their contact. "That's Mackel. They call him the Stork." Cuz he looks like a dork! I don't know why they call him the Stork, as he is neither delivering babies nor roosting on an Amsterdam chimney. The man they call the Stork (cuz his head's made of cork!) takes them to the salt mine, where they get their 007ish gadgets. The man they call the Stork (cuz he eats lots of pork! With a big-ass ol' fork!) says that "If they catch you in Parmestan with a gun, they'll cut your head off! Ha ha ha ha!" (It's funnier if you're a stork) So his gadgets are cleverly concealed guns, right? Oh, you and your silly logic again! The Stork (cuz he was worn as a dress by Bjork!) has a Boy Scout hatchet. "Looks ordinary enough, eh?" and he chops a pipe in half with it. "Very impressive," monotones Kurt, thinking "Just like that infomercial for those scissors that cut pennies. Where's my hatchet that also makes delicious beef jerky?" The Princess picks up a thing that shoots a knife when you press a huge button, and I must admit, I couldn't see the string this time. Kudos, Gymakata Special Effects String Department! "It can kill a man at twenty feet!" Wow, so it's like...a really shitty gun. I like the huge button idea; put it in your pocket and lean over wrong and it'll go through twenty feet of your leg. "Fine piece of work," says the Princess. WHOA!! THAT'S RIGHT, PARDNER, SHE TALKED!! If she ever did, I expected her to go "Squeak squeak! Don't bogart the acorns!" or sing in a real high-pitched voice "I still want a HU-la hoop!" You'd think that someone would react to her new-found gift of speech with amazement--or with anything--but it's completely ignored.
      Know how when Q gives Bond a gadget, it's guaranteed to be used exactly once no matter what it is? 007 can be going to the North Pole, but if Q gives him a hat that squirts out a mongoose, you know he's going to be attacked with cobras by an evil Eskimo. But Gymkata thinks outside the box! And out of its mind, too. The gadgets will never be seen again. Yep, the whole scene was time-filler. Fine piece of work, you losers!

      Kurt's off to sample the swingin' on-the-Kaspian action of a Karabul night. The locals all wear fezzes and turbans and are very white. Maybe these are Bosnian Muslims, or Serbs playing dress-up. Kinda creepy when you think about the fact that this country's only 5 years away from "ethnic cleansing." In the bazaar, Kurt fondles a candlestick and a local in a fez says "American, you like? I give you very good price if you like! I give you very good price! American, come back!" This is pretty cool, as not only is the merchant's voice dubbed in, he makes no eye contact with Kurt and NEVER MOVES HIS MOUTH. Fine piece of work! Rubali picks up and puts stuff down and never says anything. Back to that again, huh? A fat blue-eyed native walks up and asks, "You American?" Yes, says Kurt, and gets a glass of water thrown in his face. "Yankee go home!" The two agents accompanying Kurt restrain him from Gymkataing the guy, most likely by walking on his hands up some stairs. "There's just a bit of anti-American sentiment going around," says an agent. "But I think--" THWOP! "AAAARRGGHH!" and he gets an arrow in the tummy. AH-HAHAHA! Yeah, just a little bit! If this isn't funny enough, the agent was a LOCAL. I guess there's a bit of anti-local sentiment here, too.
      The "Yankee go home!" bit made it clear that there's about 15 feet between Kurt and the end of the alley. He instantly bolts after the unseen perp. Kurt races down a side alley that's about 200 feet long, and it doesn't strike him as odd that the guy's so far ahead that he must be doing 500 miles an hour on foot. Maybe he's chasing the Road Runner. That'd be cool! It'd mean Kurt would fall off a cliff and turn into an accordian! The Princess could pick him up and play a jolly jig as we all did the Gymkata Polka! "In Heaven, there is no Kurt/That's why we're glad he's hurt!"
      TWENTY MINUTES into the movie and we finally get--GYMKATA! It involves a lot of back flips. And waaaay over-recorded sound effects. The Foley guy must be deaf. Kurt takes on some turbanned dudes and clobbers them. Gymkata's so good it makes one bad guy fall when Kurt misses him by about 3 feet. Two baddies grab him and try to ram him into a wall, but he runs up the wall and smashes their coconuts against it! And I do mean coconuts--Their heads make hollow KONK! noises straight out of the Three Stooges. Kurt runs off in some ill-defined direction while chasing no one, and comes across a stiff with an ax in him. There's blood where the ax isn't, but where it is there's Karo syrup. They must've been in the grocery line ahead of the guys who bought the blood for Dead Men Don't D!e. To underline the sheer visceral horror of this scene, the soundtrack has a musical saw. Let me repeat: A fucking musical saw. "DWOING-oing-oing! DWOING-oing-oing!" Kurt reacts to the carnage on the soundtrack by standing there with his mouth open, which is kinda funny because it seems like he's the one going "DWOING!"
      Kurt races back to the Stork ("SHAZBOT!" yells Mork!). "They grabbed Rubali!" "They grabbed my bally?! How shall I play The Terrible Game of Bocce?! It's Zamir! Even from hundreds of miles away he knows everything we do!" Well, that's because he's on top of that 200-mile-high mountain in Parmestan, silly! Try ducking down more. "Not for long." says Kurt. "...I'll kill him." Remember those pauses for laughter after every "joke" in Dead Men that only made it more obvious that it wasn't funny? Well, there's a big pause after Lil' Kurtsie Thomas declares that he'll kill Zamir. And it's just perfect for laughter!

      Well, Lil' Kurtsie's off to attack the "walled city" "terrorist training camp" "fortress" of Zamir's lieutenant Tamerlane. Stay tuned for more exciting backflips! DWOING-oing-oing!

      Kurt arrives at the "walled city" "terrorist training camp" "fortress" of Tamerlane and is surprised to discover that the front door's locked. Evidently they don't like door-to-door traveling gymnasts, as a bunch of guys in suits immediately run out and start chasing Kurt. One looks just like Inspector Clouseau. "Kurto! Where are you, my little yellow friend?"
      Kurt darts down a random alley and between 2 buildings there's a frickin' parallel bar. With chalk dust already on it. Good alley-choosing skills, Kurt! He swings around on the bar and the baddies run up one at a time and get kicked in the head. It doesn't occur to them to duck. Kurt pounds a guy on a bike, and I guess he's supposed to be an innocent passerby so I guess that this is "comical." It's not really funny, since it looks like Kurt broke the poor slob's neck. Kurt grabs him by the head and shakes it, saying "Are you okay?" 3 times while the guy makes painful gurgling noises. Boy, how comical. "You'll be fine," says Dr Kurt as he gives the guy's head a few last shakes. Remember: If somebody breaks their neck, shake their head a lot. It resets the vertebrae.
      Kurt gains entry into the walled fortress because the back door is open and unguarded. Remember: When infiltrating impenetrable terrorist fortresses, try the back door first. All the guards have knives and axes rather than guns, except for the Level Boss, who has an AK47 and, given his diction, a mouth full of toothpaste. He hears Kurt kicking ass (and that damn DWOING-oing-oing! sound again) and doesn't do anything until Kurt and a one-eyed guard wrestle right outside his door, then he blasts away at the closed door. Cyclops runs in with multiple bullet holes in his back. Since he had Kurt in a bear hug in the previous shot, it's unclear why Kurt's unharmed by the bullets that went through Cyclops. Rubali disarms the boss and kicks the AK to Kurt who kills the boss and wins 5000 bonus points and an extra life.
      They move on to the next level of The Terrible Video Game, the one where all the bad guys have machine guns. It really doesn't matter that they do; every time they shoot, they either fire a hundred rounds where Kurt and Rubali were 15 seconds ago, or they shoot when they can't possibly miss but still do. Once, the bullets are stopped by a trash bag, not the type of thing one normally considers bulletproof. Twice the bullets apparently pass through Rubali as the squibs explode on the wall behind her. You'd think that a half-dozen guys running through the center of town in broad daylight firing Schmeissers might draw attention, and it does, as a civilian closes his door and the cops eventually shoot one bad guy. A car pursuing our heroes does a Dukes of Hazzard fly-off-the-ramp stunt and by "car" I mean car as there's no one in it. Even Christine hates Kurt!
      They make it back to the Stork, who's wearing headphones (cuz he's listening to Liza sing "New York, New York"!). "What the hell is this?!" Kurt says. "None of this is packed!" What, is the Stork your mother? I hope he made your bed for you this morning. Not packing must be a serious offense in Karabul (on the Kaspian Sea), as the Stork points a gun at them. And is instantly blasted by machine gun fire. Now the Stork's as dead as...um...an Orc! Err, he's done, in him stick a fork! Wow, it's good that he died right as I ran out of rhymes for "stork."
      Who killed the Stork? It wasn't Dick York! It's Agent Guy. Lucky that he picked this particular nanosecond to teleport in from Dimension X. "I said that Special Intelligence should've handled this from the start!" he says, which is appropriate as every time I think of this movie's intelligence, the word "special" comes to my mind. Two guys burst in and Agent fires 800 bullets at them before he's even had a chance to see who they were. They would've been safe if only they were carrying trash bags!
      Kurt gives us his usual response to extreme violence, standing there glassy-eyed with his mouth open. This time, however, he does not go Dwoing.

      How do you get to Parmestan? You ride donkeys over narrow mountain trails and then ride white-water rapids in an inflatable raft. The parts for that Star Wars radar station the US wants to build here had better be very, very small. And waterproof. Also donkeyproof. Uh oh! BAD NINJAS! Parmestan has a very high amount of Ninjas per capita. Kurt and Rubali make it to shore, and suddenly--Out of the water leaps gold medalist MARK SPITZ, Master of SWIMKATA! Mark screams "Now. I. Will. Kill. You. DEAD." But they hop out of the raft, and since you can't do the deadly Swimkata BackDeathStroke on land, Mark snarls "You. Fuck. Ers." and sinks back under the water. Maybe he'll telepathically command electric eels to attack them. Wait, I'm thinking of either Aquaman or Jacques Cousteau here.
      A Bad Ninja tries really half-heartedly to pop their raft with his Ginsu knife. It's pretty clear that they couldn't afford to waste a raft, so he gets nowhere near it. Kurt really hates it when people threaten defenseless rafts, so he Gymkatas the Ninja. Then he does the next logical thing, which is to attack nine armed Ninjas solo. The Ninjas surround him and politely wait their turns to be beaten up. When I said these were "Bad Ninjas," I meant "Incompetent Ninjas." Gymkata is mainly kicking people then doing a backflip, so there's this opportunity to get him in midflip, but none of them try. One Ninja doesn't even get hit; Kurt spins him around and he falls down from dizziness. What type of crappy Ninja gets dizzy? He'd be defeated by the Teacup ride at Disneyland. Another Ninja just stands there holding the reins of their horses. He's been trained in the ancient Ninja Art of Valet Parking! A Ninja finally hits Kurt with a little block of wood, and all goes black.

      Kurt awakens to find his face being caressed by a guy in a dress with black teeth. No, really, black teeth. "Where am I?" whines Kurt. "You'll get no answer from him!" says Zamir. "He has no tongue!" Hey, who needs a tongue when you've got black teeth? Zamir has been sent to "Welcome you to our country." Kurt rubs his owie and says, "I already had that!" So, when the guys come to build the Star Wars station, they all have to get beaten up by Ninjas? Now the parts have to be ninjaproof. This is gonna cost a fortune!
      Zamir is scary! At least it's scary to me that there's someone in this movie who's a worse actor than Kurt. Also, since he's a Parmestanian, he's Australian. Hey, everyone else in the country is either Serbian or half-Indonesian/half-squirrel or named "Buck," so why not? Remember that baby kangaroo that Sylvester always thought was a giant mouse? It just hit me that the kangaroo was using Gymkata! You know, lots of kicks and hopping around. A little light on the backflips, but still. So it's ironic that an Australian is going to fight Kurt the Kangaroo Boy!

      Kurt and the rest of the World's Champions are given the rules of The Game. I was expecting the usual assortment of Champions; a crafty Japanese, a backstabbing Russian Commie, a light-hearted Irish drunk, a sexy French woman. Instead we get a guy who I guess represents China, a vaguely Hispanic guy, and 3 guys of indeterminate nationality. Since everyone except the Chinese guy looks like an overweight middle-aged businessman, perhaps the all-powerful world-threatening "whatever" they're fighting for is sought by the Rotarians and the Shriners. "You will come to FEAR our little clown cars and fezzes!"
      Buck the Khan shows them his cheezy science fair project, a diorama of The Terrible Game Course. There's itty bitty trees and flags and ropes and sticks and stuff. But where's the baking soda volcano? This movie has worse special effects than that Brady Bunch episode.

      NEXT WEEK: Princess Rubali's diary is lost, and everyone finds out her true feelings about Desi Arnez Jr!

      Khan Bucky, King of the Lawn Gnomes, finally tells Kurt and the rest of the contestants exactly what The Terrible Game entails: A run through the swamp! Rope climbing! More rope climbing! A river! (That's all, just a river) The Village of the Damned! Other bad John Carpenter remakes! More running through the swamp! Instant DEATH awaits those who avoid an obstacle--such as, say--a swamp or a rope! Woe to he who fails to phrase his answer in the form of a question! Yep, that game's pretty terrible all righty. Terribly not interesting. It sounds like middle school gym class with a swamp added. Where are the real obstacles, such as robot dinosaurs? Where is the pit of piranhas with crocodiles armed with spear guns? The brain-eating karate wombats with flamethrowing burp guns? The deadly nuclear threat of Richard Chamberlain's ass? Now that'd be a challenge! That Village of the Damned had better not just be a lot of swampy rope.

      The Khan, with a roguish twinkle in his beady leprechaun eyes, tells the Terrible Gamers "Now I must go play king for my people!" and puts on his crown. It's a raggedy old fur hat that makes me glad that this wasn't filmed in Smell-O-Vision. Then we switch to the town center, and discover that the Khan actually does dress better than everyone else. The populace wears the type of rags normally associated with Renaissance Fairs held in leper colonies. If it's 1985, why is there not one pair of parachute pants in the whole city? (Excluding the ones that the Vaguely Hispanic Guy's wearing, that is) The citizens of Parmestan are fat and ugly and frequently missing teeth. Everyone looks like they were extras thrown off of the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail for poor personal hygiene.
      The Khan's heralds blow a fanfare on cow horns, which is pretty funny as they aren't blowing into them. They just stick them in their mouths and that's it. The director gives us a lingering close-up to make sure we don't miss it. King Bucky ("How do you know he's a king?" "Cuz he ain't got shit all over him!") yells "YAKMALLAH!" and the crowd yells "YAKMALLAH!" Then he speaks in unaccented English, as the native language of Parmestan has only that one word. "These men have been convicted of terrible crimes!" says Bucky of three prisoners. From their ridiculously fake beards, I assume that they robbed the wig factory. Maybe they've been convicted of impersonating the Doobie Brothers. But they have a chance for freedom--if they survive The Terrible Game. Viewing this inhuman spectacle, Kurt turns to the Vaguely Hispanic Guy and says, "Is Thorg here yet?" What part of outer space did that line come from? Who's Thorg? Vaguely Hispanic Guy says, "You mean the Superman?" Hey, thanks for clearing that up. With a name like "Thorg" I figured he'd be an Orc. That's what the Game needs! Orcs riding motorcycles with spikes on them that are covered with killer bees that are carrying teensy tiny baseball bats that also have spikes! That'd be bitchen tubular! "I hope he makes it," mopes Kurt over Thorg, his secret crush. Because, you know, he's Superman. He can spin around the world real fast, and turn time back to when this crappy movie didn't exist.

      The ropes binding the Doobies are cut with a comically oversized scimitar of the type usually seen in cartoons set in Arabia, and then Let the Terrible Games Begin! The ugly villagers run after them with their spears, and if you look carefully, you'll see Vaguely H.G. knock over a guy shaking his fist with his horse. It looks staged, so why the director decided to put it at the back of the frame where I missed it the first time is a mystery and very close to a run-on sentence, damn I'm sorry that Thorg missed the dramatic horse-hit-and-run scene cause Orc Supermen live for that shit, ya know?

      The doomed Doobies run through the swamp, which I should point out is a cornfield and not a swamp. That's what the Game needs! Children of the Corn! Ooh, they were scary. The cornswamp is not, not even when you're being chased by those famous Parmestanianish ninjas. At least not when the ninjas are dressed in black and wearing bright red pyramidal hats that make them look like

      "When the ninjas come along, you must whip it! Before Thorg puts on his thong, you must whip it! Now whip it! Into shape! Go forward! Move ahead! YAKMALLAH! Whip Kurt good!"

      Evidently the corn is pretty harsh, as the more Kenny Loggins-looking of the Doobies collapses and begs "Please help me! Please help me!" and he's so exhausted that his lips don't move. Then he gets a spear in the back. Oh no, they killed Kenny! No return to Pooh Corner for you! The remaining two run, one of whom looks like Stalin who I don't think was in the original Doobies. If he had, that song would've been called "RED Water"! Instead of "Black Water"! Oh fuck you, you think I know enough about the Doobie Brothers to make a good joke? Kenny Loggins wasn't in the band either, you know! At any rate, Stalin and Michael McDonald climb ropes and Stalin gets an arrow in the back. Not really all that much of a game, is it? Then the ninja who shot the arrow gets killed because he shot Stalin before he got off the rope and that's against the rules. Then there's more ropes, the same ones we saw at the beginning that Kurt's dad had to hang from over the gorge but we've all forgotten about that by now. Michael gets an arrow in, where else, the back. In another example of directorial magic, he turns his body and THE ARROW DOESN'T MOVE WITH HIM. He turns 180 degrees and the arrow stays at the same angle it was originally shot, as it's obviously pinned to his shirt. Then a straw dummy falls to the gorge below and hits the rocks with a sound like...a straw dummy falling onto rocks. Kurt looks aghast and shocked at this senseless loss of a Doobie's life and also the crappy effects. I had a dream a week ago where I was playing Scrabble with only the blank tiles. You could make any word you wanted, but you didn't get any points. It seemed like a better game than this one, is all.

      Party time in Parmestan! Yep, nothing gets you in the mood for fun like a bloody triple execution. And what do the Parmestains do for jollies when they're not killing each other or watching their teeth fall out? They go "YAY!! YAY!!" and roast a pig at a big banquet! Mimes in harlequin hats prance about clashing cymbals that don't make any noise, while women dance dressed in hideous rags but with perfect 1984 big-bouffed haircuts! Vaguely Hispanic Guy (who's got a pretty big role for someone who's yet to be named) karate kicks the cymbals and they make noise now! Ninjas ride horses and try to put nets over each other's heads ineptly! A guy sticks pins through his cheeks! WHEE!! We're gonna party like it's 1399!
      How does Kurt party? He eats an olive and puts a wine glass to his lips and pretends to take the world's smallest sip. Kurt parties like a Mormon. A dull Mormon. Hell, a dead Mormon.

      King Bucky appears on his balcony to speak to the assembled masses of Parmestan, all 50 of them, and you can guess what that means. "YAKMALLAH!" I think that's the brother of Dumb-Allah from Dead Men Don't D!e, except he's got the head of a yak. Kurt asks him about his father, who came to play The Terrible Game. Everyone's yelling, Kurt's speaking in a normal tone of voice, and they're about 500 feet away from each other, so of course Bucky hears him. "Your father was a great competitor!" says the Khan diplomatically, as Dad made it exactly as far as Michael McDonald did.

      Kurt turns to Vaguely H.G. and says, "Hey, Gomez!" So he does have a name! Gomez turns to Kurt and says, "TISH! You spoke French!" and kisses his arm. "What's this about a town of crazies?" asks Kurt, apparently about the Village of the Damned. "This country sends their criminally insane there!" answers Gomez. "They're creepy and they're kooky! They're altogether ooky! They've been doing it for generations!" That sounds like Parmestan. They've been marrying their cousins for generations, too. "They're a bunch of goddamned CANNIBALS!" says Vaguely Eastern European Guy, who like everyone else in the entire world has an American accent. This seems like a failed mental health policy to me. And shouldn't they have eaten each other all up by now?

      "I would like to announce the marriage of my daughter, the Princess Rubali!" says Bucky about that supa-sexxxy chipmunk girl. "To ZAMIR!" And there was much celebration and mangy fur hats thrown in the air! Yes, they have arranged marriages in sophisticated, debonair Parmestan. Along with the ritual murder and the mental patients forced to eat each other and the lack of bathing and/or teeth and mimes. I'll even bet that "YAKMALLAH!" means "It's fun to step on puppies!" So why the fuck are we supposed to like the king and hate Zamir again? It's not like the king's doing anything to raise his country up into 16th century here. And why was military action ruled out? Their population of 50 is armed with pointed sticks and the closest thing that they have to a weapon of mass distruction is their body odor. Forget the NRA chapter, a monkey with a handgun could conquer this country during the commercial breaks of an episode of Friends.

      "YAY! YAY!" Who's this neckless steroidal monstrosity the grubby natives cheer, he who looks like an even-more-washed-up Hulk Hogan? 'Tis THORG, fabled of myth and legend! He accepts their mighty cheers with the same utter lack of expression that everybody has in this movie. "Thorg!" cries Kurt, his heart all a-flutter with boyish glee. Thorg ignores him. "Thorg!" yips Kurt like a puppy that a Paremstanian hasn't stepped on yet and holds out his hand. "I've admired you ever since Munich!" WWF Smackdown's an Olympic event? Thorg ignores him again! Kurt slumps down in his chair and looks at the wall with a mild pout. In the last 2 minutes, Kurt has found out that his father's dead, he's going to be fed to psychopathic cannibals, and his girlfriend's going to be forced into marriage tomorrow. And his reaction to his rejection by Thorg is the most emotion he's shown. That tinkling sound you hear is Kurt's widdle heart breaking. Then he again does the "fake sip of wine" thing. Partying like a dead Mormon nun, that Kurt.

      Jealous of Kurt's flirting with Thorg, Zamir takes off his shirt and whips his little knives around. Whip it good! This causes huge excitement among the local shitwads, but you'd be entranced, too, if your idea of great entertainment is a mime with a cymbal. Then he throws them at Kurt! The knives, not the mimes. As the knives stick in the wall not particularly close to his head, Kurt reacts with the frozen look of boredom I've had for most of this movie. Of course, if his face wasn't frozen, it would've looked funny when they ran the film backwards when the strings on the knives pulled them out. Number of times we've seen this backwards knife throw effect: Three. "You must understand," says Zamir in his Crocodile Dundee accent, "She's mine!" "It's not over yet," says Kurt, probably thinking he means Thorg. "So put your hardware back in your pants!" This is a witticism, I think.

      Kurt makes the black-toothed eunuch take him to the Princess at knifepoint. "Tell her to meet me in the garden!" says Kurt, which is kinda dumb as Mr Blackteeth doesn't have a tongue. She finally has a second line of dialogue. Actually, she has a whole pile of plot exposition, something about the young people wanting to overthrow the king and bring the country into the modern age, but Zamir wants to overthrow the king and keep things the same, but the king wants to overthrow himself after The Terrible Game tomorrow and bring the country into the blah blah blah, whatever, and "Combine the best of the old with the new." "That sounds intelligent!" says Kurt. Yeah, if there were any old ways that didn't suck. Seriously, I haven't been exaggerating (much) about the stinky country of Parmestan. What's to like about the old ways? He's still planning to marry off his daughter because of "tradition," from the same set of traditions that makes mental patients eat each other. Even Kurt says that the he'll be killed if he doesn't perform in The Game. Bucky just doesn't strike me as a particularly progressive kinda guy.

      Oh, and two ninjas come and Kurt Gymkakatas them and it goes without saying that he misses one of them by a mile but the ninja falls down anyway. Next: The Terrible Game Begins! YAKMALLAH to you too, asshole!