Movie Review: Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.

What a revelation! There are corrupt and hypocritical evangelical pastors out there. Barely a month goes by before another one gets nailed to the cross in a scandal. There have been the big ones like Jim Bakker, who was accused of sexual misconduct and went to jail for accounting fraud; Richard Roberts, who was accused of misappropriation of funds and subsequently was forced to resign as president of the university that bears his father’s name; Jimmy Swaggart, who was caught cheating on his wife with a prostitute; and Ted Haggard, who was caught in a gay sex scandal. Ted’s little indiscretion wouldn’t have been so shocking if it weren’t for the fact that when he was on the pulpit, he regularly raged against adultery and homosexuality. Then there are the little guys like Dave Reynolds, who was charged with 70 counts possessing or viewing child pornography. First-time writer-director Adamma Ebo and producer/twin sister Adanna Ebo take a satirical look at this “phenomenon” in a film that is based on their 2018 short of the same name.

HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL. tells the story of megachurch pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown, TV’s THIS IS US and AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VS OJ SIMPSON) and his First Lady wife Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall, THE HATE U GIVE, the SCARY MOVIE franchise) as they attempt to make a comeback following a misconduct scandal that has engulfed the couple. They’ve hired a film team to document their lives as they prepare to reopen their Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church but, of course, it doesn’t go very well as the couple has to contend with parishioners who are less than forgiving and stiff competition coming from a nearby church whose young pastor couple are just as slick as they are.

I get that evangelical pastors are low hanging fruit as they can’t seem to help but shoot themselves in the foot, but if you’re going to satirize them, at least put some wit into your story. HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL. barely scratches the surface of how the Childs ended up in their predicament. Lee-Curtis clearly has a thing for young men but whatever he did with his accusers is left to the audience’s imagination. Instead, Ebo devotes plenty of time showing the Childs’ extensive wardrobes and fleet of sports cars. Tell us something we don’t already know.

Brown and Hall give it their all and their characters’ smarminess is fun to watch but Ebo gets lost trying to work out what kind of film she’s making. It’s mostly a mockumentary but when the cameras are “turned off” (in the bedroom, for example), it becomes just a regular comedy, and not even a good one. She also touches on tension in the Childs’ marriage but that doesn’t go anywhere either. Presumably, Trinitie will kick Lee-Curtis to the curb when he stops bringing home the bacon but we’ll never know.

HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL. premiered at Sundance last January and it attracted interest from Jordan Peele’s MonkeyPaw Productions who, along with Focus Films and Peacock (both owned by Comcast) plunked down US$8.5 million for worldwide distribution rights. Daniel Kaluuya’s production company, 59%, is also involved. The film is currently playing in some cinemas in the US and is also available on Peacock where available. Although it’s being distributed by Universal (another Comcast company), I doubt it will have much interest outside of North America.

Certainly, if it does come to a cinema near you, you can safely give it a miss.

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