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GYMKATA - 4 Slimes
Rated R
Copyright 1985 MGM
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 8 June 2007

The Characters:  

  • Jonathan Cabot - He might be a good choice to model sweaters for L.L. Bean, but he kisses like a guppy. Do women like to be kissed like that?
  • Princess Rubali - Every royal massage comes with a "happy ending."
  • Paley - When you need a tough government agent on the double, he is your man.
  • The Khan - The King of Parmistan. He was separated at birth from his brother, who just happened to become the Iraqi Information Minister.
  • Col. Cabot - Jonathan's father; his arm was paralyzed after an arrow struck his ribcage.
  • Gomez - From the looks of him, I would guess that his death was painful.
  • Thorg - I did it! I finally found a tough guy who wears a sweater vest! Stabbed to death with pitchforks.
  • Zamir - This guy had plans to become the ruler of Parmistan, but failed to take into account the power of Jonathan's thigh muscles. Gymkata'd to death.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

"Gymkata" is one of those films that people must see to truly appreciate. Whenever I try to tell someone about it, they react with little to no enthusiasm. However, if I force them to watch the movie, they become part of the "I have seen 'Gymkata.'" club. They laugh when you talk about the pommel horse scene or mention another random aspect of the plot. To understand "Gymkata," one must experience it.

The country of Parmistan is a nation with a strange custom. New immigrants, if they survive the trek into the country, are allowed to participate in "The Game." Any player who survives (survives; they are not playing Candyland) is allowed to make one request. Due to Parmistan's placement, it is the perfect location for part of the Reagan-era "Star Wars" defense system. A loyal agent must survive the game and use their wish to secure an agreement for the "Star Wars" facility or the security of the United States is at risk. Jonathan Cabot, Olympic gymnast, is our secret agent.

From what I can tell, there are no limits to what someone could request if they won the game. Which means it is a good thing I was not chosen. I would probably wish that every building in Parmistan be painted neon pink or some other annoying nonsense. Who is going to say no? I won the game; now get to painting!

Jonathan's training regime is a bizarre mixture of exercises. He practices gymnastic moves, chopping wood, and endurance running, along with attempting to predict how Princess Rubali is going to screw with him next. An unfortunate aspect of Jonathan's preparation is walking up a flight of stairs on his hands (upside down). He falls down the first couple of times, but anyone who has seen this sort of training montage before knows that he will eventually succeed. The director decided to film these scenes from above the stairway. When Jonathan finally walks up the stairs, he passes directly beneath the camera and his sheer gym shorts did not completely cover Mr. Harry Lou Retton (you know what I mean). No! Arrrrgggghhhh! My eyes!

I am sorry, but seeing that much of the main male character, at that angle, is like looking upon Cthulhu. Lost a bunch of SAN there.

The final staging point before entering Parmistan is an undercover headquarters in Karabal, which is supposedly a city near the Caspian Sea (do not drive yourself nuts looking for it on a globe). Jonathan and the Princess browse the city's market, but one of their bodyguards suddenly takes an arrow in the chest (he should have checked his horoscope that morning). Jonathan fights several men in the narrow alleyways. When he finishes dispatching them, the Princess is nowhere to be found. Jonathan is forced to rescue her from a mansion filled with artwork and guards so that the mission can continue.

A white water raft trip is required to enter Parmistan, so our hero and his nubile princess put on their life vests and make like ducks in a hurricane. At the end of their journey they find calm water and a ninja patrol that captures them after a short battle. Jonathan wakes up to the tender ministrations of a hideous nurse. Zounds! If the nurses in Parmistan are all that ugly, it is no wonder that their workers do not take many sick days. Heck, if they do get sick they pray to get better. Not just to recover from their illness, but to get away from that damn ugly nurse.

Parmistan is a strange place. First, some people wear thick fur hats, while others run around bare-chested. Second, firearms of any type are outlawed. The hunters that pursue players in the game (I will explain the game in a minute) use bows and spears. How Parmistan has remained a sovereign nation is a mystery to me, other than the fact that its only entrance is via a turbulent river. Why not helicopters? Is the country also home to huge leaping frogs that are a hazard to aircraft?

Anyway, the funniest thing about Parmistan is the game. For all intents and purposes, it is an endurance race that follows a set path around the country and ends where it began: outside the royal palace. The catch is that Zamir leads a pack of hunters after the contestants. Anyone caught is killed. To ensure that players stay on track, ninjas with flags mark parts of the course. (I kid you not; all of the hunters are dressed in black ninja outfits, too.)

As you can tell, a player's primary concern is one of survival. This is compounded by some of the obstacles, like climbing up a sheer cliff face and crossing a deep ravine via one of several ropes strung across the chasm. Oddly, there is a ninja flagman at the bottom of the gorge. That job must suck, because we see several players fall to their deaths. What does the flagman do, dodge falling bodies, then run over to tell them that they are disqualified?

The most dangerous obstacle is a walled town that is filled with Parmistan's violent crazies. It also appears to be the most populated city in the entire country. Jonathan spends quite a bit of time trying to avoid pitchfork-wielding wackos (both men and women). It is during this section that the best part of the entire movie takes place. Our hero is boxed in by dozens of maniacs and is about to be killed. While fleeing, in the center of one courtyard, he finds...a pommel horse! He leaps atop it and goes into a complex routine of punches and kicks, using the pommel horse like you would expect a gymnastics/martial arts expert to. It is an uproarishly funny scene. Just how many villages feature randomly placed gymnastics equipment?

Not to mention that Jonathan must have done training drills to create the required muscle memory, just in case he was attacked in the vicinity of something resembling a pommel horse.

Jonathan is eventually cornered, but a mysterious figure appears and pulls him to safety. It is his dad! The older Cabot provides some background to his son before Zamir shoots an arrow into him. Then the rabbit is off again, with Zamir and the black-clad foxes in pursuit. The gymnast is able to isolate the main bad guy and, using gymkata, defeats the bearded barbarian. He kills another man with his thighs! Not one to sit on her backside, the princess rallies her father and the other Parmistan citizens to overthrow Zamir's cronies.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Never trust a woman with a rope.
  • Gymnastics is the Western equivalent of jujutsu.
  • It sucks to be a Gemini.
  • Using an axe to chop through a fire extinguisher is not recommended.
  • Cymbals are used by martial artists to practice their kicks.
  • Never use candlewick for your climbing rope.
  • The last place you want to be is stuck in a town full of insane people who are carrying farm implements.
  • Monarchy is like peeling an apple with a butter knife.
  • Ghillie suits are made by rolling a wool sweater through dried leaves.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 3 mins - Why are the Mongols chasing that doctor?
  • 25 mins - He hates these bottles! Stay away from the bottles!
  • 26 mins - More bottles!
  • 35 mins - That is quite an impressive terrain model.
  • 41 mins - Sure beats having a lengthy appeals process.
  • 56 mins - Why would you not just use an arrow?
  • 65 mins - Huh, it's like a Havahart trap for crazies.
  • 71 mins - Did anyone ask for this scene? Anyone at all?
  • Ending Credits - Now, would he happen to be Mary Tyler Moore's half brother?

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note gymkata1.wav Paley: "Because, for the next two months, you're going to toughen your mind and your body. It's going to make your Olympic training look like finger-painting."
Green Music Note gymkata2.wav Paley: "We're interested in Parmistan for one reason - that's location. A 'Star Wars' satellite station inside Parmistan could monitor all the other satellites around the world. It would be the ultimate early warning system in case of nuclear attack."
Green Music Note gymkata3.wav The Khan describes the game.
Green Music Note gymkata4.wav Rubali: "The American is our only chance. I will help him in any way I can."
Khan: "Rubali, you must not do this!"
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipgymkata1.mpg - 3.4m
This is the terrifically funny scene with the pommel horse.

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