Sitting side by side at a press conference in Cabo, Mexico, the cast members of JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL seemed more like they were at a family reunion than a work event. Kevin Hart cursed willy-nilly and roasted his castmates and the crowd. Dwayne Johnson lobbed his own volley of jokes, while the other cast members, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina and Jack Black, laughed along and answered questions. The group chemistry is a significant factor in the film's success as their characters swap bodies in the continuation of the JUMANJI film series.
As with JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, young characters hop into the game and pick up specific avatars played by Johnson, Hart, Black, and Gillan. But this time around, the game is damaged, which mixes things up, leading to body swapping and all-new dangers.
"When the idea of me being Danny Glover came up, I was like what the hell, are you serious?" Hart laughed. "I said not only will it be great, but I’m going to do what I can to make this man happy about my portrayal of him."
When the cast was asked what each person's weakness would be if they were to play in Jumanji as themselves, Johnson launched a low blow joke, saying it would be driving for Hart, referring to his recent car accident in LA, which left him with major injuries. But he also said it was good to have him back. That spoke to the nature of their friendship, and how comfortable the entire group is with spilling a little bit of the beans with their dynamic.
"It’s great, great fun working with these people," said director Jake Kasdan. "It’s fun sitting here with them and it’s exactly as much fun working with them every day. They’re just brilliantly funny."
New cast members Danny Glover and Danny DeVito add an interesting dynamic. As older characters, they don’t understand video games, so being in one makes quite the challenge for them to comprehend what’s happening. Johnson and Hart had fun acting like them, but also felt pressure to do justice to these acting legends.
"It was a real honor, a true honor to portray and embody Danny DeVito," Johnson said. "It’s kind of like the cool magic of Jumanji in that you get an opportunity to embody these other people."
DeVito chimed in: "I don’t know how he did so good, you kicked ass. Here take my shirt, go ahead," he joked.
And don’t sleep on another newcomer to the cast: rising star Awkwafina. She plays another avatar within the Jumanji game world, which means she also gets the challenge of acting as one fo the well-known members of the cast. (We won't spoil who.) The scene showcases how much talent she possesses. Hart made sure to point out they all had a hoot laughing over her impression of the animated actor.
You also can’t have the body swap conversation without addressing the comedic performance by Jack Black. His avatar is "possessed" by two characters: Fridge, the athlete played by Sir Darius Blain, and his player from the previous movie, Bethany, played by Madison Iseman.
"Fridge was an awesome challenge, and obviously Bethany - great character, too. I don’t really think about which one is my favorite, in the moment I just feel like this feels right," he said.
If the jungle wasn’t bad enough, you’ll find these characters exploring new hazards such as a desert in which ravenous animals attack. The characters must get over their emotions and the shock of being different avatars to help get each other out of Jumanji alive. If the first movie was about the insecurity of being a teenager, this one focuses on growing up and sometimes growing apart.
"We wanted to be better, we wanted to be bigger, but we also wanted to make sure we were rooted in the foundation that really made the first one unique and appealing to everyone around the world," Johnson said.
"These guys are so locked in, it makes it easy that way," Kasdan added.
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.