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Review: ‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ is a modern take on a classic comedic genre

With the state of the world in the past decade, society has been more willing than ever to call out vile actions committed by beloved institutions through means such as social media. 

It was only a matter of time before we saw a film not only provide a satirical take on such a real-world premise, but do so through the classic comedic style of the mockumentary. This is exactly what we get and more from Adamma Ebo’s directorial debut, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

Executively produced by Jordan Peele and co-produced by Daniel Kaluuya, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is a feature-length adaptation of Ebo’s 2018 short film of the same name. The dramedy follows Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, played by Sterling K. Brown, and his wife, First Lady Trinitie, played by Regina Hall. The couple plans to reopen their megachurch a year after a major scandal forced them to close, with a documentary crew documenting their daily lives throughout the process.

Immediately, the premise holds a lot of comedic potential, and the film draws a lot of laughs out of both the institutional megachurch setting and the constantly looming nature of the scandal. However, the focus on these less-than-redeemable characters only works if you can still find moments of enjoyment with its characters, which is where the film’s leads truly shine.

The dynamic between Brown and Hall balances highly comedic as well as dramatic and serious moments. Viewers see many different angles of how their relationship works on a fundamental level, as well as where they build off of each other and break each other down. Their performances are absolutely one of the standout aspects of the film and the definitive reason that the film is worth your time and attention.

Another highlight of the film is how it is edited, with the majority of the film being in the format of the documentary that is being shot in real time. We get a lot of amateur film crew camera movements, as well as text on screen that even plays into the jokes at times, and overall comedic stylings that make great use of the format. 

The actual progression of events and the plot in the film is relatively basic when it comes to both mockumentaries and satire, and won’t provide any real surprises. For a film of this style, however, it only gets in the way when the film puts its jokes to the side and focuses entirely on drama. The film’s more serious parts still provide an effective scene in the moment but can distract greatly from the rest of the film at times. 

However, it all comes together by the end of the film, as the last act is a great release of all of the setup, rising tension and setpieces that the film has established by this point. The film’s pinnacle results in a sequence of events that makes the entire roller-coaster journey beforehand, entirely worth it in the end.

Overall, while not the amazingly triumphant return to form for satirical mockumentaries that it could have been, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” still effectively uses the conventions of this genre in new and interesting ways, and creates a film experience that is unlike most other films that have been released this year. It’s a film that I would recommend to fans of satires or mockumentaries.

“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is currently in theaters and available to stream on Peacock.

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