Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul coming to theaters and Peacock.
‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ is a mockumentary-style comedy and satire that aims at megachurch culture and the pastors who run them. Strong performances anchor the film, which takes a turn from surface-level comedy toward darker territory as the plot progresses. Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown star as Trinitie and Lee-Curtis Childs, the respective first lady and lead pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch in Georgia.
Their church once had upwards of 20,000 congregants, but a recent scandal caused them to close temporarily. Lee-Curtis and Trinitie are now on a mission to reopen their church in time for Easter Sunday, but not without competition. A rival couple has managed to grow their church following while the Childs were shut down, including many former congregants of the Childs’ church. The film is the feature directorial debut of Adamma Ebo. It’s a full-length adaptation of Ebo’s short film of the same name.
Many key moments of the short film are recreated in the feature to great success.
The short film works fine, but Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown bring the acting prowess needed to hammer these moments home on the big screen. Hall and Brown are fantastic. Arguably, the film wouldn’t work without their incredible performances. They manage to balance a fine line between lack of self-awareness and controlled image repair. They’ve invited a film crew to follow their journey of rebuilding and self-proclaimed resurrection, meaning they’re always ‘on’ for the cameras. However, they cannot praise God without mention of their Prada suits or the Bugatti parked in the driveway of their large mansion.
At one point, Pastor Lee-Curtis takes off his shirt while practicing a sermon, but it seems more of an effort to show off his chiseled abs rather than a true instant of religious revelation. These are the moments that really work, and the comedy is effective. In contrast, when the movie dives into the effects of the scandal on the Childs’s marriage or comes face-to-face with some of the victims of their antics, the film slips into more uncomfortable territory. It’s good to address these issues head-on, but the film’s tone can’t decide whether it wants to be comedic or focus on serious issues. As a viewer, it can leave you longing for more jokes.
The mockumentary-style filmmaking lends itself well to the material. The Childs’ have willingly brought these cameras into their lives but constantly want to tell them what they can and can’t film. Hall can quickly put on a big smile when she realizes she is still on camera or encounters adversity and knows she has an audience at any given time. There’s also a slew of ‘archive footage’ from the heyday of their church. Brown is believable as a pastor who could have amassed a big following, and his past sermons (complete with film grit overlay to show the test of time) are a great way to showcase the actor’s talents.
I give ‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ 3 out of 5 stars. Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown deserve immense praise for executing their roles. The performances save the film from a muddy tone that provides more cringe than laughs. The film invites many comparisons to other mockumentary films such as ‘Best in Show or ‘Waiting for Guffman,’ however, those films seem to have a bit more control over their themes by comparison. ‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ It is in theaters and streaming on Peacock on September 2nd.