Written by Cassie Jo Ochoa
Lately the cup of religious satire floweth over. From The Righteous Gemstones to the MEGA podcast to even the Babylon Bee, the American religious foundation is ripe for the parody. With Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul we’ve got a new twist on the tale as filmmakers Adamma and Adanne Ebo use a mockumentary approach to give audiences the inside scoop on some of the more eccentric traditions in some Black Southern Baptist churches. What follows is a tale that mixes praise miming, big hats, and the phonetic difference between “ay-men” and “ah-men” with a serious look at the aftermath of a splintered religious community.
The film follows the Childs, a pastor and his wife trying to salvage what remains of their megachurch congregation after a sex scandal. The details are deliberately vague, but Pastor Lee-Curtis Child (Sterling K. Brown) is certain that with enough prayer he can rebuild their empire. His wife Trinitie (Regina Hall) stays by his side and, like a certain Shakespearean wife, bears the brunt of her husband’s sins as they work together to get the church ready for Easter Sunday. What follows is an examination of a struggle for the parishioners – and by extension, the favor of God.
Honk for Jesus is at its strongest when it transitions from mockumentary into the off-camera moments. No surprise that Hall and Brown give stellar performances, but the characters aren’t as captivating in the mockumentary. Potentially that’s by design as the moments that happen when the cameras aren’t rolling are the moments the Childs are at their most vulnerable. The mockumentary aspects are fine, and in fact the strongest jokes of the film are courtesy of the fictional filmmaker covering the story. The elements are just blended a bit too seamlessly, causing moments where the distinction between reality and fiction is denoted simply by aspect ratio.
Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul is an ambitious skewering that clearly comes from a place of love. The film never downplays the good that comes from the megachurches’ work in the community but takes an honest look at the toxicity brewing just under the surface. The ambition doesn’t always pay off but it certainly doesn’t stop the film from being funny. It may not call you to return to church on Christmas, but it’s another solid role for its stars and a sign of a strong career for the filmmakers.