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Film Review: “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” Offers Satire with a Sledgehammer

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | September 1st, 2022

Film poster: “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (Adamma Ebo, 2022) 1 out of 4 stars.

Based on her own 2018 short film of the same title, writer/director Adamma Ebo’s 2022 feature Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. does nothing to justify its greater length. Though there are occasionally funny bits sprinkled throughout, they are mired in a narrative that makes its point quickly and then continues to repeat it ad nauseum. This is satire delivered via sledgehammer.

Regina Hall (Master) and Sterling K. Brown (The Predator) star as First Lady Trinitie Childs and Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs of the Wander to Greater Paths Southern Baptist megachurch. In an opening montage, we learn both of their one-time enormous success and recent downfall, brought about by an as-yet-unspecified sex scandal. We also see that they are the current subjects of a documentary being made before our eyes, as a movie within the movie. Using different aspect ratios, Ebo cuts back and forth between interview footage, b-roll, and material ostensibly seen only by the external viewer (i.e., us and not the documentary crew).

l-r: Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown in HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL., a Focus Features release. Credit: Steve Swisher/©2021 Pinky Promise LLC

It’s a technique that blends the mockumentary genre, already by now a parody or itself, with sometimes even more heightened scenes of further cinematic embellishment. Everything is over the top here; no emotion is played for subtlety. Religion is a hell of a narcotic, for sure, but should we really overdose so quickly? There’s nowhere else to go after that.

Nevertheless, for those who decide to stick around for more of the same, the story follow Trinitie and Lee-Curtis on a series of misadventures as they attempt to set up a comeback (the raison d’être of the documentary). Fate does not appear to be on their side. Whether it’s the lack of cooperation from rival co-pastors of a would-be new megachurch (played by Conphidance, Klippers, and Nicole Beharie, Breaking) or the victims of past transgressions coming out of the woodwork, it never seems likely that our protagonists will succeed.

l-r: Conphidance and Nicole Beharie in HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL., a Focus Features release. Credit: Steve Swisher/©2021 Pinky Promise LLC

Plus, they are insufferable, each in their own way a horrific narcissist. Nor is the eventual reveal about the sex scandal at all a surprise. And there’s the rub. It is hardly a novel idea that organized religion is filled with hypocrites. Christian priests, ministers, pastors—and surely leaders from other faiths—are no less marked by a propensity to behave badly than anyone else, perhaps more so given the adulation they crave and receive. Ebo never does anything with her script beyond reinforce this not-so-singular premise many times over. Honk for Jesus? Not on your life.

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), as well as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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