Is there anything more frustrating, enraging and confounding than a megachurch? Making millions of dollars off people’s beliefs, while claiming to share the same, feels like shameless exploitation of the highest order. The new film Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul aims to skewer the megachurch business and does so with energy and charismatic stars, but lacks a bite that would have made the picture entirely more successful.
Writer-director Adamma Ebo makes her feature film debut by expanding her 15-minute short of the same name into a slightly overlong full-length film. Ebo knew she needed strong screen presences to portray the couple at the center of the story and she aimed high and surpassed the mark. Regina Hall stars as Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a popular megachurch, who must work with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) to rebuild their congregation in the wake of a scandal involving sexual allegations and Lee-Curtis.
In the scandal’s aftermath, their church had to shut down, which caused their parishioners to look elsewhere for church services. The Childs are ready to rebuild their image, open their doors again and bring people back into their church. There’s competition brewing when another couple (played by Nicole Beharie and Conphidance) are set to open their church doors the same day as the Childs.
Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul puts the excess of these church heads on full display. Trinitie and Lee-Curtis live in a palatial mansion, whose entry staircase is larger than most people’s homes, drive luxury vehicles and wear the finest designer clothes. Lee-Curtis tells the cameras he has been blessed with a lot of Prada because invoking blessings and Jesus makes excess justifiable, apparently. How do people running a church ever get even close to that kind of wealth? Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul doesn’t take the time to examine the affluence, but simply reminds its audience it exists.
The movie is shot as a faux-documentary, capturing every step of the Childs’ rebirth into public life. It’s an interesting style choice because it’s able to show the performative nature of Trinitie and Lee-Curtis’ lifestyle.
The movie spends too much time in the build-up to the church’s reopening and not enough time focusing on what led to its closure. The film aims for satire but often settles for parody and it’s hard to not be curious about what the film could have been if it had leaned into the former. But, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul isn’t without its entertainment, and that’s entirely due to Hall and Brown. Praise be for them.