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Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Puts Unlikeable Characters into an Unfunny Situation

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Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Puts Unlikeable Characters into an Unfunny Situation

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James Jay Edwards reviews Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., a comedy film written and directed by Adamma Ebo, and starring Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall. (Focus Features

The movie Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is being sold as a comedy. But, like many movies that have been identified as comedies, that is not a completely accurate description.

(Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., theatrical release poster, courtesy of Focus Features)

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is about Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown from This is Us) and his wife, First Lady Trinitie Childs (The Hate U Give’s Regina Hall), a couple who ran a prominent Southern Baptist Mega Church called Wander to Greater Paths until it was taken down by a scandal. Lee-Curtis and Trinitie plan the “Ultimate Comeback,” in which they re-open their church on Easter Sunday, hoping that their once-substantial congregation will rejoin them. But the town may not be ready to forgive them, and there is now a competing Mega Church called Heaven’s House that is in the way. And Lee-Curtis has hired a documentary crew to capture their big return, for better or for worse.

(Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., photo by Steve Swisher, courtesy of Focus Features)

For her feature film debut, writer/director Adamma Ebo adapted Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. from her own student short film of the same name. As a story, it’s both believable and engrossing, seemingly ripped from current events involving the state of religion and the modern Mega Church phenomenon. The narrative structure utilizes the documentary crew heavily, which allows the backstory to be told without any Bond villain-esque exposition. But the inclusion of traditional filmmaking also lets the audience know more than the doc crew, which factors heavily into the fleshing out of the characters.

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And those characters are the most fascinating aspect of the movie. The entire ensemble is flawed, and there is not a fully likeable person in the bunch. Lee-Curtis is a typical embattled pastor, and Sterling K. Brown portrays him with a deft combination of the powerful confidence that he displays publicly and the quiet vulnerability that makes up the private man. Regina Hall’s Trinnie is the most sympathetic character, playing the “stand by your man” card while Lee-Curtis is constantly manipulating and gaslighting her. Ex-congregants/current Heaven’s House runners Shakira and Keon Sumpter (played by Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Behaire and Conphidance from Complications) are as fake as so-called “Christians” come, wanting to stick it to Wander to Greater Paths in the back while they smile to their faces. Everyone sucks here, leaving the viewer with no one with whom to side. But it’s fun to watch.

(Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., photo by Steve Swisher, courtesy of Focus Features)

Now, the comedy factor. Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is not a regular, laugh-out-loud comedy. Most of the humor stems from the turbulent relationship between Lee-Curtis and Trinnie. Whether it’s the couple arguing over whether it is pronounced “ay-men” or “ah-men” during a re-baptism or it’s Lee-Curtis comparing himself to Rocky and Trinnie pointing out that Rocky lost his fight, the comedy is mostly verbal, and there’s enough chemistry between Brown and Hall to pull it off. Sure, there are the typical barbs thrown at organized religion that are good for a few chuckles, but Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is not the knee-slapping, belly-laughing movie that the ad campaign would want one to believe.

It’s also not a very satisfying movie. It doesn’t feel complete. There are several subplots and story threads that are left unexplored. The exact cause of the scandal that took down Wander to Greater Paths is alluded to but never fully explained (or, most likely, left to the audience’s imagination). But even worse, and at the expense of spoiling the movie, there is no closure. The movie concludes, but it doesn’t really end.

(Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., photo by Steve Swisher, courtesy of Focus Features)

In short, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is not the movie it pretends to be. And it’s not the first movie to do that. It’s an interesting character study, but more sad than funny, in a milk-the-followers kind of a way. Enjoyable on some levels, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.


Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.


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James Jay Edwards

James Jay Edwards is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and is the current President of the San Diego Film Critics Society. He sees dead people, can handle the truth, and knows that Han shot first.