Adapted from a short to a movie, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” exhibits the tension of the enlargement process: as the premises go, it feels a bit light in terms of the collector’s plate. The central performances, however, make this dark satire uncomfortably watchable, with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall as the disgraced pastor and his wife desperately planning a comeback.
“Pastor Childs, are the accusations true?” Brown’s Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs is asked almost early on, leaving the details of the scandal deliberately vague for much of the film.
In reality, the details are relatively insignificant, as the relentlessly optimistic pastor and his wife Trinitie (Hall) work to rebuild their Atlanta megachurch, which once numbered thousands of congregants, planning a triumphant reopening on Easter Sunday.
In what seems like an act of hubris, the Childs have also invited a documentary crew to come with them, fly-on-the-wall style, as they go through the process, though there are enough awkward moments where they frequently They are talking directly. unseen filmmakers, asking them to set aside certain material.
That device represents the kind of thing film students use, and writer-director Adamma Ebo, who produced the film along with her twin sister Adanne, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jordan Peele, could have done without this format, though. it serves the purpose of forcing Brown and Hall to keep a smile on their faces, while tension simmers just below the well-groomed surface as they watch their empire slip away.
Eventually, amid references to the “settlement” paid off to violators, they resort to roadside preaching, an indication of how low the mighty have sunk. They also see their parishioners flock to another church run by a younger couple (Nicole Beharie, Confidence), who aren’t particularly good at hiding their interest in capitalizing on their competitors’ misfortune, what the former calls a “dumping ground for a circumstance.” ”
Having made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, “Honk for Jesus” obviously has comments on the transactional nature of certain religious attire built into the concept, showing Pastor Childs’ flashy outfits and expensive shoes as evidence of those who are benefit from their herds. . But that broader aspect of the film feels underdeveloped, focusing specifically on the central couple’s plight, and particularly the extent to which Trinitie will go, to quote the song, by rooting for her man.
In that sense, the film provides a solid showcase for Brown and Hall while establishing Ebo as a talent to watch, if not, in this setting, one that totally delivers.
“I’m not a perfect man,” Pastor Childs acknowledges at one point.
While “Honk for Jesus” isn’t a perfect movie, praise it for being at least interesting.
“Honk the horn for Jesus. Save Your Soul” opens September 2 in US theaters and on Peacock. It is rated R