by Rob DiCristino
Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall are appearing in a new feature film together. For most reasonable people, that’s more than enough incentive to check out Adamma Ebo’s new mocku-drama comedy, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. The pair star as Lee-Curtis and Trinitie Childs, proprietors of a Southern Baptist megachurch that, in its heyday, boasted thousands of congregants who eagerly supported their lavish lifestyle in the name of holy servitude. Since Lee-Curtis’ sex scandal — involving multiple young male parties — however, the Childs have fallen from grace. Presented in part as a documentary with more traditional “narrative” footage interspersed throughout, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul (oof) chronicles the Childs’ efforts to rehabilitate their image in time for a grand re-opening on Easter Sunday. Can they overcome their marital strife, their soiled public personas, and the young, dynamic Keon and Shakura Sumpter (Conphidance and Nicole Beharie), whose own megachurch rose up in the meantime?
Ebo, who also adapted the screenplay for Honk for Jesus from her own short film, has a keen eye for satire and is clearly well-versed (pun intended?) in the various hypocrisies of megachurch culture. Though she threads an unnecessary “talk radio” exposition device to bridge some narrative gaps, her strongest bits are in the subtext, in creating situations for her buffoonish characters to undermine themselves rather than having external forces do the work for them. The Childs will do anything to avoid confronting the real issues at the heart of their broken lives, their pride so belligerent that they even attempt a full-scale church service for a crowd of five die-hard congregants. Lee-Curtis is far too self-absorbed for real insight (at one point yelling through a megaphone that his wife should “shake it for Jesus” on the curb outside their church), which leaves Trinitie’s disintegration as the real narrative thrust of the piece. Faithful though she may be, one can only look like a clown — literally, face paint and all — for so long.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is in theaters and streaming on Peacock now.