Review: In ‘Honk for Jesus,’ a megachurch mockumentary

Aug 31, 2022, 2:55 AM | Updated: 2:58 pm
This image released by Focus Features shows Regina Hall, left, and Sterling K. Brown in "Honk for J...

This image released by Focus Features shows Regina Hall, left, and Sterling K. Brown in "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." (Steve Swisher/Focus Features via AP)

(Steve Swisher/Focus Features via AP)

Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown give fully committed performances in “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” so why does the film lack faith in itself?

“Honk for Jesus,” Adamma Ebo’s directorial debut based on her own short film, is centered on a pair ripe for parody: Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) and his loyal wife, Trinitie (Hall), leaders of an Atlanta-area Southern Baptist megachurch called Wander to Greater Paths. It takes about half a minute to realize Childs’ spiritual center is more designer label than Deuteronomy. Showing off their closets, Lee-Curtis gives thanks for being “blessed with some beautiful Prada.”

After a quick montage of brighter days for Wander to Greater Paths, “Honk for Jesus” catches up with the pastor and his wife on the heels of a scandal that has emptied their congregation of 25,000. Their faces are still bright, though, as they welcome a documentary crew outside the church to chronicle their revival, leading up to an Easter reopening. When Lee-Curtis steps in chewing gum and Trinitie asks the camerawoman to edit around that, she gets no reply. “Oh, that’s right,” she says. “You’re the fly-on-the-wall type.”

The mockumentary has always been a dependable way to satirize not just a character or two but a subset of society. After what Christopher Guest did to the world of dog shows and Rob Reiner did to rock bands, Ebo and her producer sister, Adanne Ebo, have aimed at the rich realm of megachurches, taking inspiration from a real 2010 scandal at Georgia’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

But the art of the mockumentary is a funny thing. It has to look unrehearsed and seem real while, often, being meticulously planned. “Honk for Jesus,” though, only gestures at a mockumentary structure, and often simply abandons the premise. Some scenes are staged with a film crew hovering around, while others — like one of the couple in bed at night — are simply filmed like a movie, with no excuse for the camera’s presence.

There isn’t much that seems natural or lifelike in “Honk for Jesus,” including the church itself. Such a large congregation would have a large staff and more devoted parishioners — the kind of cast of characters that someone like Armando Iannucci would have a lot of fun weaving throughout the film. But “Honk for Jesus” has an empty, airless chamber piece quality, sticking largely to small scenes around the edges of the church that mostly trade on Lee-Curtis and Trinitie’s obvious hypocrisy.

But it’s not often a bad move to give actors like Hall and Brown lots of room to play, and they certainly bring passion to their performances. They aren’t given anywhere especially to go, though. Lee-Curtis’ closeted homosexuality is played more for laughs than for empathy.

The film’s keenest sense is how it draws nearer to Hall’s Trinitie, as her confidence in her husband steadily wavers. “Honk for Jesus” in the end doesn’t aim for anything like the madcap parody of, say, HBO’s riotous “The Righteous Gemstones,” but it may have been more successful if it took the approach of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” and kept its camera glued to the first lady of the church.

“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” a Focus Features release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language and some sexual content. Running time: 102 minutes. Two stars out of four.

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Presidential election campaign flags hang for sale, featuring the faces of both current Pres...
Associated Press

Bolsonaro, Lula fight for endorsements before Brazil runoff

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva started bringing centrist allies into their camps Tuesday, two days after voting in Latin America’s biggest democracy sent the rivals to a Oct. 30 runoff. Da Silva, a leftist who is universally known as Lula and was president from […]
17 hours ago
In this photo provided by Johnny Lauder, Lauder takes a selfie with his mother, Karen Lauder, 86, a...
Associated Press

Son documents harrowing rescue of mom from Ian’s floodwaters

In one photo, Johnny Lauder’s 86-year-old mother is in her Florida home, submerged nearly to her shoulders in black murky water, staring straight at the camera, mouth open. In another, she lies just above the waterline on a table, wrapped in sheets to keep warm. In yet another, she’s being pushed through the water in […]
17 hours ago
Family and friends of inmates wait for news of their jailed loved ones after a deadly prison riot i...
Associated Press

Drug capo among 16 dead in bloody Ecuador prison riot

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The death toll from a bloody fight among inmates at a prison in central Ecuador rose to 16 Tuesday, and authorities said one of the dead was an alleged drug gang boss who had evaded charges in Peru by faking his death during the pandemic. Officials said the number of wounded […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

SKorea says missile malfunctioned and fell during drill

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean ballistic missile malfunctioned and fell on land during a live-fire drill with the United States, with sound of the blast and subsequent fire triggering panic among residents in the coastal city of Gangneung. They feared an attack from increasingly hostile North Korea. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Rescuers flock together to save 275 parrots stranded by Ian

PINE ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Will Peratino and his partner Lauren Stepp would not leave their Pine Island compound, even as authorities pleaded with residents to abandon their homes because of damaged roads, including a collapsed bridge that was preventing deliveries of food, gas and other life-sustaining supplies. But the couple could not leave without […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Viewers flock to Weather Channel for Hurricane Ian coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — The Weather Channel reached its biggest audience in five years last week when Hurricane Ian made its destructive landfall in western Florida. The average audience of 3.4 million people last Wednesday was more than any other day for the network since Hurricane Harvey deluged Texas with record amounts of rainfall in […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Review: In ‘Honk for Jesus,’ a megachurch mockumentary