Audiences have come to expect wicked-sharp aim in a dark comedy/satire. Unfortunately, we don’t get that in writer/director Adamma Ebo’s Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Expanding her own 2018 short to feature length, she should have more to say when making the move from 15 to 102 minutes. Not even the (star)power of Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown can save the film from floundering in a sea of aimlessness.
Trinitie Childs (Hall) is the first lady to Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) and the two are hoping for a huge Easter Sunday comeback for their “Wander to Greater Paths” Baptist megachurch. A film crew has been invited to shoot the behind-the-scenes as Trinitie and Lee-Curtis wade the aftermath of a scandal.
With Lee-Curtis being accused of sexual allegations, they set out — along with their “Devout Five” members — to re-open and save their reputations, and possibly their marriage. But their plan hits a number of bumps along the way, particularly in the way of Shakura (Nicole Beharie) and Keon Sumpter (Conphidance) announcing the opening of their own church in hopes of gobbling up the Childs’ past members.
The film is advertised as taking aim at religion, and megachurches in general, but the marketing is completely off. What we get is a comedic drama that’s never as funny as it should be, with the drama feeling completely out of place. Hall gives a brava performance, managing to bounce between the comedy and drama better than anyone else in the cast — her “praise miming” breakdown in the last act is phenomenal — while Brown merely chews the scenery whenever he can’t manage to get his shirt off.
There’s also an unusual storytelling technique that is a good idea, but pulls you out of the film every time it happens. The mockumentary approach was good enough, there’s no need to cut in and out of it. And the 102 minute runtime is way too long considering it offers no real closure. Because the film played at Sundance, it makes sense that Ebo provides such a vague ending.
There’s been far better religious satires — Kevin Smith’s Dogma remaining one of the absolute best 23 years later — but there are still some laughs to be had and Hall is worth watching for her performance alone. For interested parties, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is releasing simultaneously on Peacock and in theaters, but save for the fact that it happens to be National Cinema Day this weekend (with theaters offering $3 tickets), you’re better off watching from the comfort of your own couch.