It’s always refreshing to witness a directorial debut, especially with a film like Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. The introduction of a new cinematic voice is exciting. Moreover, it also gives the viewer a roadmap as to where an individual’s career may take them. For example, the Coen Brothers’ debut film, Blood Simple, gives you a good appetizer as to what their careers would look like. Enter: Adamma Ebo and Adanne Ebo – the creators of Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. A movie that has an interesting premise and a great cast was bound to excel. Although I didn’t love it per se, I can firmly recommend this movie because, as I believe the Ebo twins are capable of changing how we perceive movies.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. centers around a mega church whose pastor was involved with a sexual misconduct scandal. The scandal causing the church to shut down for an indefinite amount of time. The first lady, Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) has stuck by her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) during all of this. Now Pastor Lee-Curtis is looking to rejuvenate his church and attempt to bring his congregation back. Through the assistance of his reluctant wife Trinitie – they try to open by Easter Sunday.
This movie follows Trinitie specifically – and I’m extremely glad that was the case. Sterling K. Brown delivers an excellent performance, but Regina Hall stole the show without a doubt. Trinitie is obviously committed to her husband and her church, but you can tell how withdrawn she is. The tells are either through the delivery of certain lines, or body language. Even until the end of the movie, you can see the pain in her face. Pastor Lee-Curtis believes his work is a gift from God himself. However, he exemplifies the level of vanity that is frowned upon in the Christian faith. Further, the idea of mega-churches as a whole is full scrutinized. Whether it’s the multiple Prada coats that Lee-Curtis owns or the overblown mansion – no mega-church is safe.
What makes this movie more interesting is its way of storytelling. It operates as a mockumentary about the reopening of the church. The best part about this is that you see these characters as raw as possible during their lowest moments. Even during sequences when Trinitie and Lee-Curtis would clash with other people, it feels like these people actually exist. A particular moment with an individual halting traffic to tell Lee-Curtis off shows these characters in a sense of dismay that I don’t believe would be captured in any other format.
Even with all of this, Honk for Jesus‘s meanders too much. Taking too long on scenes that have already run its course. Not to say these long scenes aren’t purposeful, but we get the same information spread across different scenes. We spent too much time in the church at the beginning, we spent too much on the side of the road. It felt like it was talking in circles at times. Sometimes the scenes were good to leave you entertained – other times you get lost in the sauce. However, most first feature films do this (just like Blood Simple at times).
At the end of the day, this is an enjoyable movie. A scathing examination of mega-churches and people who crutch their faith as a way to atone for their wrongdoings (rather than atoning for their wrongdoings). I believe the Ebo twins put out a great debut feature film, despite its flaws. I greatly appreciated the level of experimentation and the performances found within. If this is the direction that filmmaking is going, I can’t wait to see what comes next. – Jacob Mauceri
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is pending a wide release date. For more Sundance 2022 coverage, keep an eye on our Twitter page and this site!