The comic duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill began with an intentionally bad idea.
Hill called up Tatum: “So I have this probably terrible idea, but I want to see if you’re interested,” he said. Adapting the 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street was the pitch, and Tatum couldn’t resist Hill’s anti-sell.
The movie, a send-up of TV show adaptations while at the same time being one, was a hit. Now, Hill and Tatum are back Friday with 22 Jump Street, directed (like the first) by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the maestros of turning shallow conceits ( The Lego Movie) into self-reflexive satire.
Beginning with a “previously on” clip reel and ending with a slew of mock sequel teasers, 22 Jump Street again showcases Tatum and Hill’s rapport in a self-aware comedy that sends up sequel-making and dissolves into such absurdity that, one point, it literally turns into The Benny Hill Show.
In a recent Associated Press interview, Hill and Tatum reflected on their partnership in parody and what Hill calls “the most difficult week of my life.”
JH: I think we got lucky. We knew we would get along, but also the way we interact is luckily funny. It makes us laugh. I think it makes other people enjoy watching us hang out. When we’re on set, and we’re hanging out and laughing, I can see people smiling.
CT: I definitely went into this, more than most films, with zero, zero ego. I was very insecure about trying to go do a comedy. I was just sort of like: “Tell me what to do.”
CT: It was like 2 in the morning — they must have still been shooting — and I hear my email go off. I pick up my phone for whatever reason. I never do this. I don’t email with Seth [ Rogen], but it’s Seth and he’s like, “Don’t be mad at me. We’re sitting here, and we have a crazy idea for a cameo for you that involves you, Danny McBride, a retractable dog leash and a Mexican wrestling mask.” And I was like, “I’m in.”
CT: When [Hill] got nominated for The Wolf of Wall Street, it was so insanely . . . I felt like I got nominated. I’m not even kidding. It was one of those, like, “YES!”
JH: I had a very similar experience with Cannes. I was in my bed at home, and I got an email with the first Foxcatcher review from Cannes. It was like 6 or 7 a.m. in Los Angeles. And I knew what that meant for the road they’re about to go on. I was screaming, and I called Channing and Bennett. Neither of them picked up. They screened my calls.
JH: It’s been the most difficult week of my life, without any question. I’m someone who beats themselves up for their mistakes in life. I don’t want to keep giving a watered-down apology. But there is a silver lining to it if people who are young and fans of mine hear me say, “Use me as an example of what not to do.”
CT: Knowing him, it’s even frustrating. . . . He’s such a thoughtful person. Even when we’re on set and improv-ing, and it starts skirting around anything racist or bigoted, he’s like, “I’m going to stop this before we go into any offensive territory.”
JH: We were screening the movie, and it was testing really well, and the audience was responding really well to it. We were sitting around going, “The movie plays great. I wish there was one more thing to send people off with a great feeling.” One last jab at ourselves, too. One more: “We suck.”