Arts

Stars say Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle a homage to Robin Williams

It's no, ahem, walk in the jungle talking to the cast of the long-awaited Jumanji sequel. The film's comedy trio – Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black – talk about working together and provide Laura Harding with a lot of laughs

Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

WALKING into a room to see Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, a triple threat of comedy movie stardom, feels like walking into the eye of a storm.

"You're here for the ruckus!" Jack shouts.

He is not wrong. Spending time with this trio is chaos.

It's so loud and they talk over each other so much it's almost a miracle they made a film together at all, but somehow they did – a long-awaited sequel to the 1995 family fantasy Jumanji.

Set more than 20 years after the events of the first film, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle sees the trio joined by Doctor Who's Karen Gillan as they try to escape the game in which they are trapped.

But back in the London hotel, where they are causing merry mayhem, Jack's tea has arrived. He wants a sugar lump but there are no tongs to dispense it.

"That doesn't seem very civilised!" he exclaims. "But I bring the ruckus. No tongs! Straight fingers!"

He is seated on the end of the group and proceeds to slurp loudly from his teacup.

Dwayne's hulking 6 ft 4 in, 18-stone frame is squished between him and comedy superstar Kevin, whom he affectionately refers to as "snack size Denzel".

Dwayne and Kevin have been pals for a while, having already starred together in Central Intellligence in 2016.

While Kevin is talking – "I would say I'm coming in with a high level of energy but then Jack is right there with me and then Dwayne is bouncing off the energy. All three of us are different but all on the same level" – Dwayne pretends to snore.

Kevin rolls his eyes. "He made that a consistent thing, even during my scenes," he says.

They verbally jab at each other constantly. As they embark on an international press tour for the film, Dwayne reveals he is learning a swear word in the language of every country they visit to insult Kevin with.

Asked about having a special reunion in the film, the former wrestler replies: "It was a reunion. I don't know how special it was."

"It was actually very normal. It was just another day, nothing to be excited about," Kevin adds.

New to their almost exhausting dynamic is Jack Black, a man not known for calming things down.

However, the duo were left stunned by Jack's turn as a teenage girl in the film.

You're not hallucinating, you read correctly. Jack plays a teenage girl called Bethany, stuck in the avatar of his body inside the Jumanji game. The same applies for all the stars.

Dwayne's character is the class nerd, while diminutive Kevin is the school football star. Karen is the shy girl who can't talk to boys.

Seeing Jack slip into the persona of an Instagram-obsessed 16-year-old was "crazy" and "amazing", according to his co-stars.

"It might have been too amazing," Jack ponders. "It might be like, 'What's up with Jack, why is he so good at that? He's a little too good at that'. Flip the switch and I'm a 16 year old girl, no problem. She's right beneath the surface but I don't let her out."

Jack reconsiders where he's going with his train of thought. "That sounds creepy, like I've got a 16-year-old girl in my dungeon, no! That is not what I mean at all! What I'm saying is if I ever need her, she's there."

For all the fun and games, it was important to the stars to include a special tribute to Robin Williams, who starred in the original film.

"We wanted to make sure that we were really paying homage and respect and great love and reverence to him," Dwayne says, "because we wouldn't be here without Robin Williams."

He continues: "Robin Williams created the Jumanji magic, as Jack likes to say, and through that magic we just wanted to hold this project with kid gloves and really try to do it justice and create something that is fun, that's fresh, that's different but also has a spirit of Jumanji and deliver that to today's generation."

That film may be more than two decades old but they all claim to have strong memories of seeing it in cinemas.

Kevin is not so convinced about Dwayne. "Are you sure you remember? The movie came out 22 years ago so when you first saw it you were 44 or 49, you're 68 now.

"Me and Jack were a reasonable age when we first saw it but if you have that memory, you're like a turtle."

"It was a long time ago for me," Dwayne laughs. "I'm 72."

Something approaching a calm seems to have fallen on the group, until the conversation of food comes up. Apparently Jack embarked on a culinary tour of Hawaii with co-star Nick Jonas. Dwayne feigns outrage: "What? We didn't go anywhere!"

"You're invited on the very next culinary adventure," Jack pacifies him. "We will extend the invitation. These guys were busy, they are making it sound like they weren't invited. You guys had dinners! I was never invited to your dinners!"

Kevin gets involved now. "I don't even eat! I juiced the whole time."

Suddenly an accusing eye is cast in my direction and Jack scolds: "I can't believe you brought this up. Look what happened."

And with that, the ruckus is back.

:: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is released in UK cinemas on December 20.

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