Adapted from a short film for the movie “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” shows the strain of the scaling process – as the spaces go, feel some light as far as the collection plate is concerned. But the central cast makes this dark satire awkwardly watchable, with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall as a disgraced pastor and his wife desperately plotting a comeback.
“Pastor Childs, are the allegations true?” Brown’s pastor, Lee-Curtis Childs, is questioned early on, with the specifics of the scandal deliberately vague for most of the film.
The details are actually relatively inconsequential as the relentlessly optimistic pastor and his wife Trinitie (Hall) work to rebuild their megachurch in Atlanta, which once boasted thousands of parishioners, and plan for a grand reopening on Easter Sunday.
In what seems like an act of hubris, the Childs have also invited a documentary crew to fly-on-the-wall style with them as they go along, though there are plenty of awkward moments where they often find themselves talking straight. at the unseen filmmakers and asked them to omit certain material.
This device represents something used by student filmmakers, and writer-director Adamma Ebo — who produced the film with her twin sister Adanne, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jordan Peele — may have gotten away with it in this format. they serve the purpose of forcing Brown and Hall to keep smiles on their faces as tensions simmer just beneath the manicured surface as they see their empire disappear.
Finally, between references to “reparations” being paid to those wronged, he resorts to roadside preaching, suggesting how far the powerful have fallen. They also watch as their members flock to another church run by a younger couple (Nicole Beharie, Confidence) who aren’t too good at hiding their interest in cashing in on their competitors’ misfortunes—what the former calls a “circumstance dump. ”
After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, “Honk for Jesus” clearly has a commentary on the transactional nature of certain religious garments that are part of the concept, showcasing Pastor Childs’ flashy clothes and expensive shoes as evidence of those profiting from their flocks. . But this larger aspect of the film feels underdeveloped, focusing specifically on the plight of the central couple and especially the lengths Trinitie will go to, to quote the song, to stand by her man.
In that sense, the film provides a solid showcase for Brown and Hall while also establishing Ebo as a talent to watch, if not, in this environment of one who totally delivers.