Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul
Sundance Film Festival Premieres Section
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Adamma Ebo
Writer: Adamma Ebo
Cast: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown
Screened at: Sundance Film Festival Online, LA, 1/23/22
Opens: January 23rd, 2022
Religion helps a lot of people. There are many different faiths all around the world, and belief in a higher power can be a source of comfort and also a reminder that there is someone watching, which means we should all be on our best behavior. Yet that isn’t always the case, and there are those who seek to profit from the vulnerability of others and to take advantage of the blind devotion religion can bring to usurp funds for personal use. Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul is a satire of sorts that shows how alleged service to the lord doesn’t always manifest itself in honesty and mimicking the divine image.
Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) and her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) have experienced a fall from grace. The pastor’s questionable behavior resulted in the closure of their church, which used to draw thousands of congregants. They are set on relaunching Wander to Greater Paths, and they work with a documentary crew to give their takes on why what they are doing is of crucial importance. As they prepare for their grand reopening on Easter Sunday, both Trinitie and Lee-Curtis grapple with whether they themselves can live up to the vision they have for their flock.
This film’s opening will immediately remind audiences of the seemingly endless train of mockumentaries that exist today, though most are in the television space rather than film. There’s a reason why the format works, since the stream of interviews allow the characters to convey their innermost thoughts to an unseen camera crew, and the hypocrisy that exists in the incongruent nature of their wide message and private sentiments. Just as an office workplace or a modern family are great settings for such a concept, a church struggling to rebuild itself is also a worthwhile topic.
Any project featuring Hall is worth a look based on her casting alone. She has done terrific work on television on Black Monday and Nine Perfect Strangers, and received considerable acclaim for her lead performance in Support the Girls. In this role, she brings a lot of the excess that has enabled her to excel in comedy, making Trinitie seem larger-than-life and able to take on any challenge by using the right intonation and spinning the story in a positive direction. As the film goes on, more layers of Trinitie emerge as brought out by this talented performer.
Brown is also a skilled actor who has charmed audiences on This Is Us in addition to complex turns in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Waves. Here, he is less likeable than usual, exuding overconfidence and a sense that anything he does which isn’t completely above board should be excused because of the importance of his role and his work. Pairing him with Hall is a smart choice, and it’s intriguing to see Brown handle a much more flawed character than he typically tackles, imbuing him with a similar surface-level allure that doesn’t hold up as soon as he feels challenged.
It’s hard to consider this film on its own without thinking of another popular and currently-running send-up of churches, HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones. That series is both bigger and more absurd, so anyone hoping for a comedy of the same proportions will not find that here. What starts as a clear mockumentary turns into something more introspective and depressing, still infused with humor but, like Trinitie, not entirely sure of where it’s headed and whether it can deliver on its massive promise.
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B