Tipped off by its irony-basted title and from its earliest scenes, we recognize that Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is grounded in the gospel of satirical smirk and wink cinema. Thankfully, writer-director Adamma Ebo, with her impressive debut feature film, handily dodges the specter of broad anti-religious ranting by fine-tuning her target. The specific sinners in the crosshairs are a black Southern Baptist megachurch preacher and his wife — AKA “First Lady” — whose piety and gravy train have been toppled in the wake of the preacher’s devilish sexual misdeeds. Congregants fled the fold, heading over to the smaller church in the city, which is now poised to become the new megachurch on the block.
Our defrocked pair have worked up a public reckoning and comeback scheme – a megachurch “resurrection” on Easter Sunday, no less — which becomes the film’s general narrative premise. But the secret weapon of intrigue in Honk for Jesus is its mockumentary subplot. A mostly unseen documentary crew follows the would-be-holy couple’s return to their self-imposed thrones, “fly on the wall” style, warts and all.
As periodically fascinating, comedic and audacious as the film can be, it wavers off track and loses continuity, as it oscillates between faux-documentary detachment and standard narrative forms. What holds our attention throughout the film are the serious serio-comic acting chops of Regina Hall as the First Lady, and Sterling K. Brown the errant preacher. Both actors’ charismatic performances deliver righteously, and with aptly rubbery morality. To them, we say “hallelujah.”
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is currently playing at Paseo Nuevo Cinemas and Fairview Theatre, for more information or to purchase tickets visit metrotheatres.com.