Simultaneously snarky and heartbreaking -- snarkbreaking? -- Sarah Silverman's vocal performance as little-girl race-car driver Vanellope von Schweetz in Disney's new animated feature "Wreck-It Ralph," opening Friday, might seem a surprise to anyone familiar with her largely NC-17 humor. Yet in her role as a misfit video-game character helping a video-game villain (voice of John C. Reilly) who's trying to turn good, the controversial comedian creates something wholly original: Where someone else might have played up the "mischievous brat" aspect, Silverman, 41, effortlessly effects a poignant hurt buried deep within bravado.
"I love her comedy and I think there is something very childlike and naive in that character she plays in standup," says director Rich Moore, a veteran of "The Simpsons" making the leap to features. "And I downloaded her [memoir], 'The Bedwetter,' with stories she tells about herself as a kid, and listened to her reading the book. And I thought, 'This is the character, this is Vanellope.' I jumped in with blind faith."
Was there pushback from family-friendly Disney? "Absolutely not," Moore says. "In March 2010, we had a table read of the first draft of 'Wreck-It Ralph,' with Sarah, Jane [Lynch], Jack [McBrayer] and Alan Tudyk -- John was not able to make it -- and it was the first time people heard the character being spoken. And Sarah, from the first time, killed the table read."
"That's so cool!" Silverman says when told how "The Bedwetter" helped get her the gig. "I didn't know that! And that's funny, since I relate to Vanellope so much -- she's got this glitch, and in the end she learns that her biggest shame can become her superpower. And for me, I was a bed-
wetter growing up, and it did become sort of my superpower, because in doing standup I had nothing to lose: I had already experienced humiliation that bombing in front of strangers could not compare to. So I felt a kinship with her in that way."