Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. 2022 Movie Review
You’ve probably seen roadside ministries before; someone standing on the side of the street preaching through a megaphone, often holding a sign that says something like “honk if you love God.”
Director Adamma Ebo’s aptly named new comedy-drama “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” is a satire of megachurch culture, but also a nuanced criticism of the hypocrisy and abuse of power that plagues many organized religions and their leaders.
The film has an impressive list of producers, including the director’s twin sister Adanne Ebo and Daniel Kaluuya, who stars in “Nope” directed by Jordan Peele, whose company Monkeypaw Productions executive produced “Honk for Jesus.”
You don’t need to be religious to enjoy the film, but anyone who grew up in “the church” will especially appreciate the subtleties.
The film follows Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), the pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch that’s extremely successful until a sexual misconduct scandal drives away most of his large congregation.
His wife and first lady of the church, Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall), stays by his side as they try to rebuild their church and reputation. Childs hires a documentary crew to record his comeback journey, and most of the movie is shown through that lens, cut with some behind-the-scenes moments.
The details of Childs’ misconduct are not specified at the beginning of the film, but more details about the victims and the settlement are revealed as the story progresses. I won’t spoil it, but the allegations are based on unfortunately prevalent true stories.
It quickly becomes clear that the pastor and first lady are more obsessed with the fame and power that come from being on stage than teaching the gospel, but they use the bible to justify their extravagant lifestyle. Their huge closet in the church full of extravagant suites and hats? Well, “God don’t like ugly.”
Lee-Curtis Childs has an almost literal God complex. He thrives off of the attention, power and validation that comes from being on stage.
He talks a lot about how god has forgiven him for what he has done, but not so much about how he is sorry for his actions or concerned with how they affected his victims.
As he and his wife prepare to reopen on Easter Sunday, they find themselves in a war with the new, more modern megachurch in town, where all their congregation (except for five loyal members) went after the allegations.
The couple who run the church are played by Nicole Beharie, who was also in the new movie “Breaking” and Conphidance, star of “Little America,” and guest star on many TV shows.
Not only are the couple younger than the Childs, but they’re also co-pastors, a fairly progressive move in a culture where usually only men are pastors.
The director has said the film was inspired by her own complicated relationship with organized religion. She recognized how pervasive the issues were and wanted to leave, but felt that “there is still so much about it that I love and find beneficial and beautiful,” and it “doesn’t feel right to just leave it all behind.”
This push and pull come through in the way Trinitie Childs feels about her relationship with Lee-Curtis. As she puts it, “I would sooner kill him than leave him.”
The actors seamlessly balance comedy and drama. Brown, who is best known for his dramatic acting in “This is Us,” excels as a comedic actor. And Hall, who is best known for her comedic roles in movies like “Girls Trip” and the “Scary Movie” series, shows off her dramatic acting ability.
If we rated movies out of 10 stars, I would give “Honk for Jesus” a 7.5. But I would probably rate it even higher if it weren’t for the ending, which is abrupt and doesn’t provide closure. An open ending can be an effective tool, but in this case, it just made the film feel incomplete.
I also would’ve preferred a true-mockumentary format instead of the mostly-documentary-but-sometimes-not style.
Neither of those shortcomings change the fact that it’s a very unique and entertaining film.