In Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul, Sterling K. Brown plays Lee-Curtis Childs, a once-popular and powerful preacher who is looking to make a comeback after his career and his church were both hit by a scandal.
Regina Hall plays Trinitie Childs, Lee-Curtis’s wife and the “first lady” of Wander The Great Paths Church. She is just as determined as Lee-Curtis to make a comeback.
Together, they solve crimes!
Actually, they don’t. They really don’t do much of anything, beyond trying and usually failing to talk people into returning to their church. In archival footage, we see Lee-Curtis preaching the prosperity gospel and claiming that his faith in God is the reason why he not only has expensive clothes and a big house but that it is also the reason why he deserves them. We see footage of Lee-Curtis in the past, condemning homosexuality from the pulpit but, in the present, Lee-Curtis seems to hit on almost every man that he meets. Lee-Curtis is quick to smile and to speak of how he’s made his mistakes but he’s been forgiven by God. At the same time, he also always seems to be just one minute away from having a complete meltdown.
Trinitie spends her time trying to keep that meltdown from occurring. She is someone who knows how to play the loving wife. A meeting her mother establishes that being a loving wife is what Trinitie was raised to do. It’s only in private that Trinitie reveals how difficult it is to be married to Lee-Curtis. She wants the respect that comes from being married to a powerful man, enough so that she’ll even humiliate herself by standing on a street corner while holding a sign that requests for drivers to honk if they love Jesus. When others attack her over her husband’s infidelities, she smiles and argues with them until she eventually reaches a point where she can smile no longer.
Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown both give excellent performances, with Hall doing an especially good job of capturing Trinitie’s conflicting emotions over being the wife of Lee-Curtis Childs. As played by Hall, Trinitie is someone who knows that she deserves better but who has also become addicted to the lifestyle that comes from being the first lady of a megachurch. As such, she’ll do anything to help Lee-Curtis regain his former popularity. While Lee-Curtis practices vapid sermons and wallows in self-pity, Trinitie is the one who is left to talk to the people that Lee-Curtis victimized. Brown has the magnetism necessary to be credible as a man who could convince others that he was without sin. Hall has the determination necessary to be credible as the power behind the pulpit.
Unfortunately, as good as both Hall and Brown are, the rest of the film is a complete mess. It starts out as a mockumentary but then it includes scenes that are clearly not meant to have been filmed by the documentary film crew. Unfortunately, there’s rarely any indication whether we’re watching a mockumentary scene or a “behind the scenes” scene and it’s left to the audience to sort out which is which. Ultimately, the film’s main flaw is one that is shared by many films that have attempted to satirize the excesses of organized religion. Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. At this point, is anyone shocked to discover that some pastors are corrupt? Is anyone shocked to discover that religious people can also be hypocrites? None of the criticism is quite as groundbreaking or shocking as the film seems to think that it is. The movie feels like the equivalent of the atheist who thinks that he’s the first person to make the “But if God created everything, who created God?” argument. When it comes to making an argument one way or another about organized religion, Honk for Jesus is as shallow and predictable as the God’s Not Dead franchise. This wouldn’t matter, of course, if the film’s satire had any bite or was, at the very least, consistently humorous. Unfortunately, this is pretty much a one joke movie. It is, admittedly, funny the first time that Hall switches from yelling to smiling when she realizes that she’s on camera. But, at one hour and 40 minutes, a satire needs more than one good joke.
The film is partially redeemed by Hall and Brown but ultimately, there’s little here that hasn’t been done better before.