To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a comedy mockumentary written, directed, and produced by Adamma Ebo (C.R.E.A.M. & Butter), in her feature-length directorial debut. Featuring Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, Austin Crute, Nicole Beharie, and Uchenna “Conphidance” Echeazu it is a feature-length adaptation of Ebo’s 2018 short film of the same name. The story follows Trinitie Childs, the first lady of Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church, who together with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs must rebuild their congregation to its former glory after a scandal forces their church to temporarily close.
The film opens on a Black dreadlocked Jesus figure next to a busy highway. Cut to an empty megachurch, Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) talks to the camera about the struggles of being the First Lady and how every woman is not built for the job. She explains the difficult challenge ahead of her family to return to their former grace using an analogy about a rat “chewing its way back into a house” emphasizing that she and her husband are not rats.
After the credits, we cut to footage of Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) giving a sermon about how the Lord blesses those who favor Him, with Pastor Childs talking about his Rolls Royce, helicopter, and showing off his expensive three-piece suit in the process to thunderous cheers and applause from the congregation. Multiple news broadcasts show the Childs paying off the entire debt of Fulton County and offering their megachurch to the mayor and governor to host their respective fundraisers. The Childs are then shown leaving their church as reporters swarm around them asking if the allegations are true.
Megachurches in the South are just as prominent as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Whether they have one large location or many you’re bound to see one as soon as you cross the Mason-Dixon line. When it comes to Pastors, the South has the best showmen in the country. Black Southern Baptist churches have had flair for decades with many historically White churches adapting the style to help integrate their churches and bring them into the modern era. With the influence of televangelism and social media, megachurches have grown to be one of the biggest businesses in the world. One church can stream to different locations all over the country so that people can feel included even if the Pastor is not at the physical location. This is appealing to those who do not wish to leave home to worship or do not want to spend hours finding parking and seating.
This film is a commentary on the wealth of megachurch Pastors and their unchecked spending. How much money should a Pastor make? This is not an easy question as people would glorify any other profession where people do well for themselves. Athletes, bankers, real estate agents, and rappers are all allowed to have excess, yet people expect Pastors to be poor humble servants. In Matthew 19:24 Jesus tells his disciples “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The acting in this film is truly phenomenal. Sterling K. Brown is a showman if there ever was one. The way he plays Pastor Childs is spot on to how many wealthy Black preachers present themselves. He is flashy, well-spoken, and in touch with the youth. While it is obvious that Pastor Childs loves the Lord and wants to spread the Gospel, he is at a point in his career where he cares more about the show he is putting on for his congregation than what he is preaching. It doesn’t matter how much money he has to spend to make the allegations go away as long as he still has the adoration of the public. There are also the details of the allegations which goes against multiple things he is shown to preach. Something that has also become more prominent in church lawsuits over the years. There is also evidence of the people Pastor Childs helped in his career. How do they deal with that knowing what he is being accused of doing?
Regina Hall is the star of this film and carries from beginning to end. Trinitie is the first character we meet and the last character we see. Her pain and her struggle through this situation can connect with many Christian women. Her husband and Pastor has been adulterous and she has decided to stay with him and work on their marriage. Women are always asked why they stay when their spouse cheats and Trinitie gives a great monologue on why she made the choice she did. It’s not black and white and she clearly struggles with her decision, but powers through. Trinitie is shown to be just as vital to the success of the church as her husband to the point where she would publicly humiliate herself if it meant she could fix things.
Last, we can’t forget about the writer, director, and producer Adamma Ebo. She has crafted a masterpiece feature-length adaptation of the short film she made with her twin sister Adanne Ebo (The Way You Look Tonight), who is also a producer on the film. Adamma expands upon the story by adding a few more characters and situations to enhance the narrative. Some scenes, dialogue, and locations are lifted right from the short film while others differ slightly. The inclusion of Keon and Shakura Sumpter, co-pastors at Heaven’s House Baptist Church, is ripe for a spin-off/sequel. Adamma creates moments in this film that are truly hilarious, specifically, the scene where the Childs rap “Knuck If You Buck” by Crime Mob and others that are more emotionally demanding such as when Lee-Curtis is confronted by one of his accusers. With a film debut like this, hopefully, the Ebo twins’ careers continue to blossom moving forward.
There’s so much more to talk about with the movie that I cannot cover in this review. I can only recommend seeing it for yourself. It’s funny, serious, and hits close to home. I give Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. an Excellent 9.3/10. The film is a conversation starter and one of the most original films I’ve seen this year and hope it picks up more acknowledgment come awards season! If you want a little taste of what the film is like you can check out the original short film below.