DISCLAIMER: Mild spoilers abound for Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.
You’ve undoubtedly seen them on TV or read about them online — celebrity evangelists spearheading megachurches while owning enough Lamborghinis and Prada suits to feed 5,000 people or more. They preach humility and benevolence while perched atop a throne compiled of generous “church donations.”
Enter: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., the feature-length directorial debut from Adamma Ebo. It’s a biting, sharp mockumentary taking satirical aim at these evangelical soldiers for the Lord. Ebo’s identical twin sister, Adanne Ebo, also produced.
Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall star as Lee-Curtis and “First Lady” Trinitie Childs, megachurch leaders in Atlanta scrambling to make a comeback after a scandal causes a mass exodus of congregants. Thus, the couple invites a documentary crew to film their hopeful return as pillars of the Christian community.
Despite Lee-Curtis and Trinitie’s insistence that the film crew omits specific dialogue and “unsavory” footage, we get a peek behind the heavenly curtain and the carefully manicured images of two seemingly perfect messengers of God.
We also see the budding rivalry between another church on the cusp of megachurch status, threatening to revoke the Childses’ position as the number one Atlantan place of worship.
Brown doles out a multilayered and simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious performance. Behind the theatricality, machismo and larger-than-life charisma, Lee-Curtis is merely human.
Hall steals the show as First Lady Trinitie, and, as the movie progresses, we see she’s the one holding the reins. Hall captivates, grabbing your attention, whether it’s a simple glance into the camera, her physicality or her witty one-liners.
Both actors have their fair share of comedic moments, even leaning into slapstick territory at times. Neither takes the comedy over the top but lets it land naturally. Conversely, both performers get their time in the dramatic spotlight, namely Hall, whose hefty monologues brim with searing vulnerability and gut-punching heartache.
It’s no simple feat to balance comedy and drama with ease, but Adamma Ebo’s brilliant script strikes that perfect balance, weaving levity and somberness into a divine cinematic tapestry.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. utilizes that “documentary feel” with its cinematography. The camerawork certainly adds weight to every moment, from the humorous cutaways to the on-screen text introducing viewers to the documentary interviewees.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. asks us to examine our idols while pointing a bold finger at the concept of for-profit religion that benefits the vainglorious and tramples underfoot those who find hope in their faith.
We see many cracks in the Childses’ façade, notably their crumbling marriage. Some of the most revealing moments that shed light on their collective hypocrisy play out when the camera’s not rolling.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a laugh-out-loud satirical romp with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall leading the charge with two powerhouse performances. It reveals the darkest parts of humanity through its humor, and while you might not love the Childs, you’ll undoubtedly feel for them. Adamma Ebo knocks it out of the comedic park with sharp directing and a brutally funny script.
Sundance Film Festival runs until January 30. For more information regarding the online festival schedule, go here.
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