Fix-It Felix Jr. is a mystery, even to the man who plays him. Despite appearing in two movies, 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph and 2018’s Ralph Breaks the Internet (which is out now on 4K, Blu-ray and Digital), the ever-helpful, always friendly repairman’s background remains shrouded in secrecy. Nobody even knows if there’s a Fix-It Felix Sr.
On a phone call from London Jack McBrayer, the Georgia-born comedian and actor who voices Felix, asks, “Is Fix-It Felix Sr. still around? Does Fix-It Felix Jr. now just run the company? What’s the situation? What’s Felix’s immediate family situation right now? Is there a dad? Who could play the dad? What would he be like? Does Felix have daddy issues? Is that why he’s always like ‘I can fix it!’ Is he a middle child? I’m a middle child, and we’re always like, ‘is everything okay, is everybody happy, how I can help?’”
I’m actually serious about this. I write about videogames, too, and have been playing them since… well, long ago, and if I ever came across a real game called Fix-It Felix Jr. I would assume it’s a sequel. Donkey Kong Jr. and Jr. Pac-Man established that precedent. Somewhere within the world of Wreck-It Ralph there’s an original Fix-It Felix arcade game, and I’m sure it’s a crucial part of that world’s fictional videogame history.
Unfortunately Ralph Breaks the Internet isn’t a sobering, reflective look into the family history and home life of Fix-It Felix Jr. In fact Felix is hardly in it. He does have a prominent storyline, although most of it happens off-screen. He and his partner, Sergeant Calhoun from the fictional game Hero’s Duty (who’s voiced by Jane Lynch), adopt 15 of the racers from Sugar Rush, the game that Sarah Silverman’s lead character Vanellope Von Schweetz lives in. At first the stress of going from zero to 15 especially hard-to-handle kids seems to break Felix, sending him to Tapper’s for a drink. And then, over the next hour, Felix and Calhoun somehow whip those kids into shape off-screen. As entertaining as Ralph Breaks the Internet can be, a part of me wishes we had stuck in Litwick’s Arcade so we could see the domestic drama unfold between Felix and his small army of uncontrollable kids.
McBrayer’s also interested in what happens between when we leave Felix in Tapper’s and then return to find him as the patriarch of a model family. ” I can only imagine that Felix and Calhoun have different parenting styles,” he says. “I bet you a dime to a donut there’s a lot of good cop stuff / bad cop stuff happening. Also I just love seeing Felix, who, for better or for worse, I can relate to in many regards—’okay, I’ll find a solution to this,’ or ‘I can fix this’—and quite clearly he is overwhelmed. To see how someone like that copes, when it’s an insurmountable obstacle, like ‘I’ve got 15 monsters living with me right now, how do I do this…’ It’s a good life lesson. It’s okay to ask for help!”
Ralph Breaks the Internet can’t just hang around the arcade, though. It has new targets in its sights, and newer technology to parody. As the title suggests, Ralph (once again played with adorable shagginess by John C. Reilly) gets sucked into the information superhighway when Litwick’s installs Wi-Fi, with his best friend Vanellope in tow. Together they do the things that they do and learn the valuable lessons of life and just generally grow and develop as both people and computer files.
All that’s secondary to the real drama at the heart of the movie, though. I couldn’t stop thinking about Felix, and the man who played him. What would Felix use the internet for? Would he search for parenting tips to help corral the unruly horde of Sugar Rush racers that now ransack his home on a daily basis? Or would he just use it as an escape from that chaos, drowning out the world around him while he watched home repair videos on YouTube and stared at photos of tools?
McBrayer, again, is unsure. Personally he’s not much of an internet kind of guy. “I am not the most adventurous when it comes to technology or computers or anything like that,” he says. “And plus I’m not saying this because ‘how cool am I, how novel,’ but I am not on social media. I’m not knocking it at all, I just think I missed the window.”
Despite his lack of technological prowess, McBrayer does fondly remember when he first encountered the magic of email. “I was a temp at a job in Chicago and because I was there long-term they gave me an email address,” he explains. “I’ll never forget being able to email people I went to high school and college with who lived in different places, because I had a company email address. I thought I was the king of the world. I was unstoppable. ‘Oh my God, it’s nighttime, and I’m still writing you, electronically!’ It was the dumbest thing ever.”
He might call it dumb, but that’s just modesty. McBrayer’s not ashamed of his decades-long love for email. His ability to retain a sense of wonder about one of the most basic and mundane internet functions—one that’s been partially superseded by the quicker but less personal medium of texting—reveals the same kind of optimism that Fix-It Felix Jr. is known for.
Indeed, despite mocking himself for his love affair with those digital letters, McBrayer still proudly signs off with this last revelation about email: “Still use it to this day!”
Hopefully someday soon, in whatever format the Wreck-It Ralph universe takes next, Fix-It Felix Jr. will get to send one of those wonderful electronic letters to his long-lost father, and his fans will finally know the truth about how their favorite videogame handyman came into this world.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is now available on 4K, Blu-ray and Digital.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He also writes about music, travel, food, theme parks and more. He’s on Twitter at @grmartin.