HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL.: 3 ½ STARS. “ridiculous and sublime.”
The term mockumentary has become synonymous with Christopher Guest’s work, a mix-and-match of documentary style and satirical fiction. Movies like “Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show” poked fun at the excesses of rick n’ roll and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show respectively.
“Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul,” a new film starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, and now playing in theatres, amps up the mock in mockumentary, to present a satirical take on Southern Baptist megachurch values.
Brown and Hall are former power couple Lee-Curtis and Trinitie Childs, pastor and “first lady” of the Wander To Greater Paths church. Once a powerhouse, with a congregation in the thousands, the church was temporarily shuttered in the aftermath of a sex scandal involving the narcissistic Lee-Curtis. “I’m not a perfect man ladies and gentlemen,” he preaches. “God doesn’t make perfect men. What I am is a servant of the Lord. Folks being the Lord’s servant doesn’t mean that you are not susceptible to being lured or seduced or being ambushed by the devil.”
In an effort to rebuild their congregation’s confidence, they set out with a plan to reopen the church and earn back trust, and the big bankroll that provided their lavish lifestyle. “We need to connect to people and make them see why they need you back in the pulpit,” says Trinitie.
There are some very funny moments in writer-director Adamma Ebo’s “Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul,” ably performed by Brown and Hall, but it is the dramatic sections that this mockumentary soars. For proof of this movie’s ability to surprise, see Hall reclaim her power in a gut-wrenching monologue, while wearing mime make-up. It’s remarkable work that blurs the line between the ridiculous and the sublime.
Emmy-winner Brown is equal parts charisma and egomania. His love of fine Italian hand-crafted shoes, helicopters and the finer things seems ripped from the megachurch playbook, but it is his power that impresses. Brown brings the juice, preaching to the choir with an authority that is both divine and extravagant.
Together their collective passion for piousness and material items may put you in the mind of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, but Lee-Curtis and Trinitie lean heavily into the tragicomedy their real-life counterparts somehow managed to avoid.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” doesn’t hold back in its savage satire, but it is in the character work by Brown and Hall, that cuts the deepest.