REVIEW: ‘Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul’ Takes A Hilarious, Emotional Look At Religion

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Honk For Jesus

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, written and directed by Adamma Ebo, is a mockumentary film produced by Focus Features and Monkeypaw Productions. Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) is married to powerful pastor Lee-Curtis Child (Sterling K. Brown), who has risen to power and prosperity as the head of the Wander the Greater Paths megachurch. But a scandal rocks their world and leads to followers departing from the church in droves. Desperate to get their followers back by Easter Sunday, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis hire a documentary crew to film their efforts to reopen Wander the Greater Paths. But they’re about to learn that pulling off miracles isn’t as easy as it looks in the Bible.

As a Black kid growing up in Texas, faith was a significant part of my life, especially since most adults told me to live a God-fearing life. That shaped not only my education but also the way I responded to stories, particularly ones surrounding faith. People can do great or terrible things in the name of what they believe in, and Honk For Jesus is no different. As the film progresses, it shifts from a somewhat humorous look at the hypocrisy that religious leaders traffic in to a sobering examination of how that hypocrisy can hurt others. Take its approach to the Childs’ scandal; while only described in whispers at first, it slowly comes to light. The revelations will more than likely leave viewers uncomfortable, but I commend Ebo for sticking to her guns while crafting this story and its fallout.

Not only is Ebo a talented writer, but she’s also a skilled director as well. As mentioned before, Honk for Jesus is a mockumentary, complete with the handheld camera movement and zoom-ins you’d expect from an actual documentary. Yet when the action switches to “real life,” things take on a glossier, more cinematic look. Not only is this a solid distinction between the story the Childs presents to the world and the reality they struggle with, but it also helps land some of the more emotional moments. A key example of this comes around the end of the film, where Lee-Curtis is confronted by a former member of his church. It’s one of the tensest sequences I’ve seen on film in 2022 and worth the price of admission. It’s easy to see why Jordan Peele boarded Honk For Jesus alongside his Nope leading man Daniel Kaluuya — this is the right blend of humor and horror that’s fueled other Monkeypaw projects.

The real draw of the film is its lead performances. Brown is utterly magnetic as Lee-Curtis, whether he’s behind the pulpit or in front of a camera. He could read the phone book and hold your attention. But he also reveals Lee-Curtis’ fatal flaw: the man has to be the center of attention. He’s the one who hired the documentary crew, and he’s the one who came up with the titular gimmick of “honking for Jesus.” And in case it wasn’t clear enough, he even references the Rocky movies, saying that he relates to the titular boxer. But as Trinite points out, Rocky didn’t win in his first film, and there’s only so much fight Lee-Curtis can put up before he’s backed into a corner. Hall is just as impressive; for most of the film, she throws up a big smile and deflects most of the documentary crew’s questions with breezy rebuttals. It’s only in quieter moments where that mask slips, leading to a finale where Hall delivers a fiery monologue that feels like she’s outright talking to the audience instead of the folks filming.

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul offers a hilarious and often sobering look at the double-edged nature of religion and the lengths people will go to preserve their reputation. It’s one of the best films of 2022 and worthy of the praise it’s received. If you have some free time this Labor Day weekend, I suggest checking it out — especially this Saturday, which marks National Cinema Day.

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It premieres in theaters and on Peacock on September 2.


Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul offers a hilarious and often sobering look at the double-edged nature of religion and the lengths people will go to preserve their reputation. It’s one of the best films of 2022 and worthy of the praise it’s received. If you have some free time this Labor Day weekend, I suggest checking it out — especially this Saturday, which marks National Cinema Day.

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