Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. review – a career-best performance from Regina Hall

By Marc Miller
Published: September 1, 2022


Regina Hall gives one of the year’s best performances in Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul, a blistering satire of how one person’s salvation can be another’s damnation.

This review of the Peacock film Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. does not contain spoilers.

Organized religion that leads to televangelists being multimillionaires has always been confounding. These megachurches blur the lines between faith and riches. Based on what should be in any one religion’s mission statement, two things should never go hand in hand, but rarely in history have they not. Religion is based on numbers that increase wealth and instill power. The latter is often abused. In Adamma Ebo’s eye-opening debut, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., is a biting commentary on organized religion, community culture, and the lack of faith in ourselves.

Filmed for the majority as a “mockumentary,” the camera crew follows around a Tammy Fay and Jim Baker type, Lee Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) and Trinity Childs (Regina Hall). They have lost their megachurch and most of their loyal congregation. Why and how, you ask? That point is not made entirely clear at first. (Which makes for an even stronger film — more on that later). However, it’s a massive scandal that has rocked their community. And, yes, call it a comeback because the Childs are opening up their new megachurch on Easter Sunday.

Standing in their way, you know, besides what the film initially is inferring as Lee Curtis’s dalliances, is Shukura (the wonderful Nicole Beharie) and Keon Sumpter (Little America’s Conphidance), a young couple who took over the Child’s place of business and talk a good game about faith and forgiveness with Cheshire smiles. The proud first couple of the Southern Baptist megachurch’s faith is tested as Trinitie deals with the judgment, the gossip, and the shame of her husband’s scandal, including reconciling her religious beliefs and mental health.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is based on Ebo’s fifteen-minute film of the same name. This is a sharp and more complex script than it first appears. At first glance, you could assume Ebo’s film is the next great Greg Daniels or Michael Schur sitcom hit. And for the most part, the film generates enough biting laughs that satirize commodities of religion. Thankfully, Ebo recognizes how this can overplay her hand and wisely changes the storytelling in two ways.

One is with footage of past events to give a sense of where the Childs have fallen from grace. The other is abandoning the “The Office” style for behind-the-scenes events. This allows for fleshing out their backstory where the cameras are put away. That includes an eye-opening scene of how little Lee Curtis has control of his urges. The other is Trinitie’s mother, Sabina (a stunningly good cameo by Avis Marie Barnes), which frames what exactly she is up against — a shared family history. Another show-stopping cameo is by Austin Crute, who plays Khalil, the young man who is primarily “responsible” for bringing the Childs to their knees, which is so much worse than we initially realized.

That brings us to the leads. Sterling K. Brown’s mix of gravitas and shame he brings to a man of religion that was exposed as nothing more than a carnival barker. A character who abused his power in so many ways and has lost his way. So badly, he came across the path again without realizing it and didn’t bother to mask his manipulative ways. However, the film is owned by Regina Hall. This is a career performance and one of the year’s best. There is an arc here, full of strength, humor, repentance, humiliation, and self-pity that no amount of money can cure. This high-wire act has a crescendo that builds to an all-encompassing “white face” monologue that’s a joyous knockout.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. will never receive the credit Adamma Ebo’s blistering satire so richly deserves because it’s viewed through a lens the majority of film critics (you can guess why) are uncomfortable with. And, for that matter, will never understand (including this one). A complex issue of one person’s salvation can be another’s damnation. Ebo’s film is not necessarily about monetizing religion but putting a price on someone’s capacity for forgiveness and a soul.

Yours and mine.

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