“Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul” is written by and the feature length directorial debut of Adamma Ebo based on her short film of the same name from 2018. The film stars Regina Hall (“Scary Movie”) as Trinity Childs, the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist Mega Church, who, in the aftermath of a huge scandal, attempts to help her pastor-husband, Lee-Curtis Childs (played by Sterling K. Brown, This is Us), rebuild their congregation.

This was actually my most anticipated film going into the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. For one, it has Regina-freaking-Hall in it, who is a comedy legend, and also the concept was very intriguing to me. It has a similar plot to the 2021 film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” a film that I wasn’t the biggest fan of, but this one seemed to have a lot of promise despite the director not having done any other feature prior to this. Although this film didn’t quite live up to my hopeful, optimistic expectations, I still really enjoyed this quite a bit for what it is.

The lack of prior experience directing a feature film is pretty clear while watching this. It definitely feels like a first feature due to the little mistakes made along the way. Although the director, Adamma Ebo, said in a Q&A after the premiere screening of the film that there were a lot of scenes cut from the movie, this film could’ve still used a lot more editing. There are scenes that really go on for way too long which affects the pacing of the film despite it only being a little more than an hour and a half. Ebo in the Q&A talked about how the scenes that were cut were very funny and I kind of wish she kept them in and just trimmed off the other, way too long scenes that did make the cut in the process.

However, like I said I still fully enjoyed this and had such a great time watching it. This movie goes back and forth between a narrative structure and a mockumentary, a fictional documentary. The editing with that is very cleaver and Ebo does a lot of fun and creative things with that. In one scene alone, and this happens a lot in the final act, Ebo will switch back-and-forth between the mockumentary camera to the “real-life” one to give a different perspective and viewpoint to what’s going on. The aspect ratio changes here are fun and these moments really help the story and see the different sides to everything happening.

Like the aforementioned “Eyes of Tammy Faye,” this movie is a satirical critique on the hypocrisy of modern day mega-churches. Pastor Lee-Curtis and First Lady Trinity Childs profited off of their formerly successful church and now own a giant mansion, multiple expensive cars, and all the stylish clothing you’d expect to be worn by a rich pastor and his church-lady wife. Lee-Curtis selfishly keeps all the money for himself and his wife while constantly saying that God would want him to spend all his wealth on expensive things. When he starts facing sexual assault allegations, he never truly repents for his actions and does whatever he can, putting on theatrics and all, to change his public perception even if he doesn’t fully think he did anything wrong.

Despite being a satirical critique, it’s just a critique on mega-churches as a whole and not on the Christian religion specifically. I think the film remains pretty respectful to the religion as a whole even during its critiques of the darker sides of the people who claim to practice it. I think Christians, Atheists, and all other religious viewpoints alike can still appreciate the topics being explored here, and laugh at all the jokes and humor, at the same time. It’s a movie where everyone gets to laugh at rich hypocrites for an hour and a half.

The biggest reason why this movie works as well as it does despite some technical flaws is how incredible and electrifying the two leads are. Regina Hall, back in her element of comedy after just starring in another Sundance film this year that was more of a horror/drama, is just as amazing and hilarious as you’d expect her to be. She really nails a lot of the jokes here and I loved every second she was on screen. Along with being a comedy, this movie also has some darker, dramatic elements to it and there’s a very emotional monologue she gives at the end of the movie that she delivers flawlessly.

Probably even better than Hall, or at least on the exact same level as her, is Sterling K. Brown as the scandalous, disgraced Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs. I think he perfectly transform into the character and is 100 percent believable as a Southern Baptist pastor. He has all the mannerism down exceptionally well, especially in scenes where he’s giving a sermon. He took me to church with his performance and I’m all the better for it.

Like I said, this is a mix of comedy and drama and I think both are done pretty well to varying degrees. Obviously with any type of comedy, how well the jokes land are subjective and not everyone is going to find this movie funny at all. I on the other hand did enjoy a majority of the jokes. Did they all land for me? No, but of all the comedies I’ve watched in the past few years, this goes up there with the funniest. It reminds me a lot of an early Tyler Perry type of comedy but more intelligent than that.

I also need to give a quick shout out to the film’s production design and costumes. Set decorator Semret Fesseha, who has worked on “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” and a few episodes of the first season of Teen Wolf, does a fantastic job capturing the essence of a modern day megachurch. She also, along with costume designer Jazmine Maddox (CW’s Stargirl), does an equally impression job capturing the elegance of the rich, Christian family depicted in the film.

“Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul” may have some flaws within Adamma Ebo’s first feature, but it’s clear that she has a distinctive vision and voice within the comedy genre which makes me super excited to see what she does next. It’s a divine film that I think people should definitely check out and have a great time with like I did. “Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul” comes to theaters Sept. 2.

Jordan Wooodson can be reached at jwoodson@thecabin.net

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