Review | Honk for Jesus. Save your Soul: Film with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall works as satire but loses it as a comedy
Film watched during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival
The megachurch culture reached its heyday in the United States between the 1990s and 2000s, through evangelical communities focused on a skillful program of mass expansion. And although the roots of this evangelistic propagation ministry are originally rooted in biblical principles, what we saw in both America and Brazil was the distortion of something good, resulting in an avalanche of egolatry, where religious leaders transform the call of Christ into an egomaniacal mess. Honk for Jesus. save your souldirected and scripted by Adamma Ebois born exactly from this chronic problem and makes an accurate satire of an abuse of power established in many churches that, of Christian, have absolutely nothing.
AND Honk for Jesus. save your soul works, but imperfectly…halfway. Presenting itself as an acidic critique of religious leaders who abuse their power based on biblical distortions, the production follows Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall like a couple of pastors who lead a mega Baptist church. But after a huge scandal involving their names, their community is forced to temporarily close its doors, jeopardizing the empire they both built from religious abuse.
Being developed in the mocumentary format (parody of a documentary), the feature is based on a short film and they have difficulties in developing their humor. With a one-joke plot, Honk for Jesus. save your soul does not justify its duration and ends up becoming exhausting after its first hour. And even though the documentary satire model brings greater value to the feature, the narrative gets lost by going around in circles a lot, always reinforcing the same stereotypes that had already been introduced in its first minutes. With the comic side of social criticism not always working, the production ends up being boring – even if its intentions are good.
The highlight of the comedy is obviously with hall and brown, who deliver ultra-caricatured performances of real and shameful characters to serious Christian communities. As two figures short of the world around them, “First Lady” Trinitie Childs and Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs are real portraits of a narcissism that has invaded a significant portion of the religious environment. And even though they sound a little forced at times, it is undeniable that the criticism of Adamma Ebo it is a mirror of a real problem.
But with a narrative argument that promises powerful confrontations that are never properly delivered, the quasi-documentary satire fails to rely too much on the characterization of the protagonists, in the expectation that this will be enough to sustain the plot. Creating expectations that the film will go beyond the ostentatious, narcissistic and picturesque lifestyle of the religious couple, Honk for Jesus. save your soul never get there. And Bo it may even be right in turning the cinematic experience into a huge discomfort, but this is insufficient to make the film the punch in the stomach that a good social critic needs to be. It is a pity.
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