If one picks up a copy of the new DVD release The Blue Elephant, one instantly gets the impression simply by looking at the front cover that the movie is meant for kids of all ages. After all, the cover depicts a drawing of a bright blue elephant squirting water from his trunk. The water is supporting a cute little blue bird and in the background is a pink elephant with a yellow flower tucked behind her ear. It's a cheery scene, with a little frog in the foreground and the blue elephant smiling from ear to ear. A quick check of the back cover reveals the tag line “a little elephant on a big adventure” and the little promo paragraph sates that this is “fun family adventure.”
Looking a little more closely, one might notice that the film is rated PG, it seems perplexing, but perhaps the review board was overly cautious or the fact that the little elephant gets separated from his herd has something to do with. Either way, the back clearly states that the story has an “uplifting message.” What harm could possibly befall this bright blue CGI little elephant?
As it turns out, someone thinking those things while looking at the case of the DVD will be shocked and disappointed. Massively shocked and disappointed. Yes, the bright blue elephant named Khan does get separated from his herd, and he does meet a kooky group of friends, but the message is actually entirely about the glory of war and how great it is to spend one's life preparing to battle to one's death for freedom.
The movie deals with a series of battles between Burma and Siam (Khan is on the latter's side and the former group is painted as a series of unmitigatedly bad people). Khan, who loses his herd when he goes to look for his missing father (who is a great warrior) and the rest of the group are forced to flee from the invading Burmese. While lost, Khan meets a cute little pink elephant, Kon Suay, who takes Khan back to her village. There, Khan witnesses first-hand how evil the Burmese are (they even use weasels and tigers to attack the helpless villagers), and how to fight back. It is in the village that he grows into adulthood and learns the art of war.
Eventually, Khan is brought before the King of Siam, recognized for his greatness, and learns the truth about what happened to his father. Khan is energized by the story and heads out to do battle with his king against the Burmese army.
The Blue Elephant features crude CGI animation (it seems as though the final scene in the movie isn't even fully animated), but that concern is secondary to the tale itself. The entire movie has lines and scenes that feel as though they are playing off of other works, and the final battle reminds one of the climactic battle in Braveheart. Less blood is spewed here, but glory is only to be found in fighting, possibly to the death, for freedom. How that makes this movie a “fun family adventure” with an “uplifting message” is impossible to discern.
The characters in the film are all entirely one-dimensional, and while the voice cast features some impressive names, like Carl Reiner and Martin Short, there is little for them to truly do. The entire endeavor leaves one moderately perplexed as to what message the producers of the film (including The Jim Henson Company which I usually greatly respect and admire) thought they were imparting. Death during war hasn't been depicted in such a positive light since some of the propaganda films of World War II.