Devan Coggan
November 06, 2017 AT 10:00 AM EST

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Twenty years have come and gone; now the deadly game’s back on.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle picks up more than two decades after Robin Williams faced down stampeding rhinos in the 1995 original. This time, there are no board games in sight. Instead, the heroes are four high schoolers who get sucked into a video game and randomly dropped into the bodies of avatars. The nerdy Spencer is now the heroic Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), while the football player Fridge is stuck in the body of the diminutive Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart). The mild-mannered Martha becomes the ass-kicking Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and the self-centered Bethany is now the brilliant Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black).

If that all sounds like a pretty radical departure from the original film’s plot, that’s intentional.

“We didn’t want to do a remake,” Hart says. “We’re doing more of a continuation, and we just wanted to make sure that we do that film proud.”

Columbia Pictures

The result is a zippy action-comedy that explores the jungle where Williams’ character, Alan Parrish, was trapped for so long. As Gillan puts it: “We’re finally getting to see what it’s like in Jumanji.”

As for Alan Parrish himself, he doesn’t appear in the flesh in Welcome to the Jungle, but the new film does pay tribute to the character’s legacy.

“Robin Williams is not only a talent like no other, but he’s somebody whose career is remembered on a pedestal,” Hart says. “The movie Jumanji was an amazing movie because of him. So to continue this world, we wanted to do it right, and we needed it to be as big as possible so the fans could feel like we’ve done good. We didn’t take the shortcuts.”

Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) directed Welcome to the Jungle, with Hawaii standing in for Jumanji’s treacherous wilderness. Even though the cast didn’t confront any truly dangerous beasts on set, they did encounter some smaller hazards: mosquitoes, spiders, and centipedes.

“I was probably the most miserable just because I hate bugs,” Hart admits. “I was happy with the work, just unhappy with the heavy bug watch that I had to be on.”

Adds Gillan with a chuckle, “It got to the point where Dwayne was just tickling him with little pieces of grass until he would run away.”

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will hit theaters Dec. 20.

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