With its snappy script that packs several punches and stellar performances, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is full of fun.
Everything in Pastor Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) and Trinitie (Regina Hall) Childs’ lives revolves around the glam image. As the leaders of a Southern Baptist megachurch, they sit on their gold and red velvet thrones inside their vast space that once housed 25,000 congregants.
There’s a giant closet filled with clothing, shoes and accessories from the best designers. As they’re discussing what outfits they’re going to wear at their next service, Trinitie quips there’s nothing better than a pastor in a Prada suit, and she’s got the expensive item to prove it.
But behind all the shiny things are two people desperate for a great comeback in Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul. Following several sexual misconduct allgeations involving Lee-Curtis, their 25,000 congregants dwindled down to just five and the church closed. But things are going to be different once they reopen on Easter Sunday, and they’ve hired a film crew along for a ride.
Adamma Ebo (with sister Adanne as a producer) takes on the hypocrisy surrounding megachurches in this part mockumentary, part narrative style film. Ebo’s script is sharp and features spot-on performances from Brown and Hall. Though the momentum fizzles out toward the end, there’s plenty to rave about, especially the focus on Hall’s stand-by-your-man wife who is unraveling at the seams.
The mockumentary portions of the film, which ties in fake newscasts and archival footage, gives us larger than life performances from the leaders of the Atlanta-based Wander To Greater Paths church. Lee-Curtis cracks jokes, while Trinitie flashes wide smiles and lovingly shakes her head. All of it’s a facade, except for when they show off their fancy indoor fountain and hat collections.
Without remotely thinking about how bad of a look it is, there we see their egos come through. Same when another church, Heaven’s House, headed by married-couple pastors Shakira and Keon Sumpter (the spot-on Nicole Behari and Conphidance), comes up in conversations. That has become the spot where Childs’ former congregants fled to during their shutdown. The church is also planning to unveil its new location – and of course it’s the same day as the Childs’ big reopening. Though they say they support the Sumpters, Lee-Curtis and Trinitie’s facial expressions and inner raging fury say it all.
As for the scandal, in which Lee-Childs is accused of sexual misconduct with young male parishioners, he doesn’t take accountability. Trinitie initially filed divorce papers, but later decided to be there for her man. But this woman isn’t the saint she claims to be. In one scene where she runs into a former congregant, the women, passive aggressively, “bless your heart” at each other, and Trinitie has to stop herself from really giving the woman a piece of her mind. Hall’s comedy chops shine and she owns every scene.
The narrative portion of the film gives us another layer into their lives. As the aspect ratios change, we see them struggle with intimacy, take parts singing along to Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” and demand that the Sumpters change the date of their own church unveiling. It’s also clear that Trinitie has had enough and has reached her breaking point. If the mocumentary portions make them seem like the shiny version of themselves, the narrative bits humanize them and give us insight into how often they have to hold back their true feelings.
The dual performances that both Brown and Hall give are extraordinary. Brown’s natural charisma shines through in one version, while the side is frustrated with everything around him. Hall is a standout and gives a well-rounded performance of a woman who will fake it until she can make it back to the top.
By the end of the film, the main storyline – the return of the church – begins to stray from us due to a few additional plot points. There also doesn’t seem to be much tension in their fight, aside from a few rude comments. But with its snappy script that packs several punches and stellar performances, Honk for Jesus is full of fun. The Childs’ want to put on a good show for everyone in their community, and Ebo certainly delivered that for her viewers, too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
About Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul
As the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Trinitie Childs carries immense responsibility on her shoulders. Her church, Wander To Greater Paths, once served a congregation in the tens of thousands, but after a scandal involving her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, forced the church to close temporarily, Trinitie is struggling to manage the aftermath. Now Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith by all means necessary to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.