I happen to like satire, especially if it is done well. Satire is designed to make you think, make you uncomfortable, and cause laughter. When I saw the trailer for this film, I was interested because it is tackling a powerful but easy target but had a wonderful cast that I was certain would be excellent. After watching, I can say that both Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown were compelling and magnetic. The satire was brilliant and kept up a balance of humor and discomfort throughout the film.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul is a satirical comedy film written, directed, and produced by Adamma Ebo in her feature directorial debut. The film focuses on the proud first Lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall), who, together with her husband, Lee Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. But a scandal forced their church to close temporarily, so Lee and Trinitie must reopen their church and try to rebuild their congregation to make a big comeback, all while being followed by a team filming them for a documentary.
Let me start with what I thought worked best. For this film, the mockumentary style brought to it actually helped increase the comedic and satirical elements. The film does a great job of illustrating that both Trinitie and Lee have secrets, even as they attempt to show their best to the film crew following them. Some of the funniest moments are when there is a discrepancy between what they say and what is happening in reality. Those moments also increase the sense of discomfort and strain, illustrating clearly that neither character is truly honest, which creates a brilliant satire of megachurches and the theater that happens in these kinds of places. It can be over-the-top, but it also was impossible not to laugh at some of the scenarios, like when the date they set for opening is up against another church or when the film dances around the actual scandal providing hints to the audience. Or demonstrating the over-the-top extravagance of riches that the pair have even while trying to claim humility. The tons of excess and their remaining congregation add to some of the most humorous bits, as does a scene of the pair rapping in their car.
The style also allows for snapshots of “interviews” with past congregants and some of those impacted by the scandal. The filmmakers also add in a radio show discussing what is happening with the church. Both add to the humor but also increase the audience’s understanding of the scandal and what others in the community really think, and add in touches of humor with how others do respond to the couple. The film also does an excellent job of showcasing the facades that the pair show the world, highlighted by a mime performance by Regina Hall’s character, Trinitie.
The true shining element of the film is the performances of Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown. The entire crew is excellent, but as the focal point of the film, Regina Hall is captivating and emotional as she slowly shows the cracks in the facade of Trinitie’s feelings. Her portrayal is powerful, especially when the character finally expresses herself fully and puts up boundaries for herself. Sterling K. Brown is magnetic, especially when he is sermonizing. He brilliantly embodies all the traits of a preacher but also manages to infuse complexity and depth into a flawed character. As rival preachers Shakura Sumpter (Nicole Beharie) and Keon Sumpter (Conphidance), Nicole and Conphidance are funny and bring a contrast to the older couple, even as you see the similarities and rivalries as well.
While the film does a great job of showcasing these excellent performances, there are moments that don’t work as well. The film does show the strain and cracks between the couple, but as the film enters the last act, it is much more difficult to watch and more uncomfortable. In some ways, that works, but if you are not familiar with megachurches, this may not be appealing as you may wonder why anyone would want to watch these characters. The uncomfortable elements do heighten the satire, however, and some of those moments are brilliant if you pause to think them through.
If you like satire and know anything about megachurches, I think you would like this film. The over-the-top excesses of the characters are hilarious, the performances powerful and magnetic. Regina Hall, in particular, shines in this film, and while megachurches are an easy target, the satire is skillfully displayed. I loved both Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown in their portrayals and really liked the mockumentary style. While there are bits that are uncomfortable, that only heightens the tension and the satire.
Rating: 4 out of 5 prayers
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Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.
HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL is a satirical comedy starring Regina Hall as Trinitie Childs – the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, who together with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. But after a scandal forces their church to temporarily close, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must reopen their church and rebuild their congregation to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.
HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL opens in theaters and streams on Peacock on Friday, September 2, 2022.
ONE-LINER: In the aftermath of a huge scandal, Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist Mega Church, attempts to help her pastor-husband, Lee-Curtis Childs, rebuild their congregation.