Film Review: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul
Director: Adamma Ebo
In Theaters and Streaming on Peacock 09.02
The mock documentary, or “mockumentary,” genre has led to some great films when it’s done well, with the works of Christopher Guest and What We Do In The Shadows serving as just a few examples. Writer/director Adamma Ebo and her producer twin sister, Adanne Ebo, are hoping to strike similar cinematic gold with Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, the feature-length version of her 2018 short film.
Honk For Jesus. Save your Soul stars Regina Hall (Support the Girls, Girl’s Trip) as Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a once-prosperous Southern Baptist for-profit megachurch, Wander The Greater Paths, whose husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us), was a beloved figure and celebrity. Unfortunately, Lee-Curtis was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal that forced the church to close down temporarily while he sought help. The dynamic duo is now back, ready to reopen and preach the good word to all who will listen—provided they can find anyone who wants to listen. The Childs’ must compete with Keon and Shakura Sumpter (Conphidance and Nicole Beharie, respectively), a couple who once belonged to Lee-Curtis’ congregation but struck out on their own and have taken a good deal of the flock with them. If the fallen idols are to regain their following, their Second Coming has to be bigger, bolder and more commercially appealing than ever before.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of commitment, as Hall and Brown give everything they’ve got into delivering knockout performances, bringing enough energy and charm to light up the screen, and Ebo is clearly passionate about the subject matter. Unfortunately, while Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul is being sold as satire, it’s simply not as funny or as lively as you might be expecting. There’s a lot of potential here, and I really wanted to see Honk For Jesus do for commoditized religion what Tim Robbins’ classic Bob Roberts did for American conservative politics, and while there’s a lot to like here, there’s very little to love.
Part of of the problem is in the approach: the Ebo’s have chosen to make the film as part mockumentary, part narrative, cutting uneasily between the documentary camera and the cinematic story, the latter of which is shot in a widescreen aspect ratio. While this technique avoids moments of breaking reality, the kind that we get too often in mockumentaries, it opens things up too much, giving the filmmakers a cheat to tell the story in a more conventional and less daring way. Rather than letting us glimpse the real Lee-Curtis and Trinitie through the obvious cracks in their veneer, we cut away to seeing them, warts and all, in their most private moments, and as a result, there’s a lot less subtlety and nuance at play. When Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul is focused on being a drama, the strength of the performances and the sharp commentary on religious hypocrisy makes it an easy and fairly engaging watch. However, the insights are obvious and superficial, and the comedic moments are played both too broadly and too tentative, rarely hitting the mark.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul is a decent film that likely has an audience out there, and it has enough energetic charm and skill behind it to serve as a solid starting point for the careers of the promising talents behind the camera. But, as far as being hailed as a great film? It’s going to need some serious prayer to reach that level of exaltation. –Patrick Gibbs