Filthy rich preacher brought low by sex scandal! Film at 11

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Aug. 25, 2022

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul
Opens Sept. 2
2.5 out of 5

Among the many baffling things about America, megachurches and the worship of greasy preachers is close to the top (next to that gun fetish thing…). The preachers justify their greed by claiming God wants them to be obscenely, Gulfstream jet rich. Then after certain peccadilloes inevitably come to light, many are forced to resign in disgrace. Yet they keep popping up like weeds, and there always seems to be an eager congregation ready to fall for their shtick.

Because this phenomenon is irritatingly common, dozens of movies have already covered it (most recently, The Eyes of Tammy Faye). Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul attempts to set itself apart by focusing on the aftermath. But in the end, it falls into a recognizable groove and becomes one more entry in the “preachers are the worst sinners” canon.

Following a juicy sex scandal (see Ted Haggard), Southern Baptist pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us) and his wife Trinitie (Regina Hall, Girls Trip) attempt to rebuild their congregation. The challenges are multiple: the feeling of broken trust is pervasive in the community, their marriage has yet to truly heal, and a new, hip preacher couple has moved into their turf.

Written and directed by Adamma Ebo, the film offers an uneasy mix of mockumentary and standard drama. The build-up to the reopening of the Childs’ megachurch provides a bit of a structure. But the bulk of Honk for Jesus is a collection of vignettes we’ve already seen in better movies.

Luckily, the leads rescue the film from perdition. Brown embodies to perfection the hubris and obliviousness of a man who hasn’t quite owned up to his mistakes. Hall is even better as the wife struggling to turn a blind eye to her husband’s transgressions, yet too accustomed to a life of luxury to give it all up. But in trying to walk the line between satire and drama, Honk for Jesus rings hollow, like a pastor going through the motions for a quick buck. ■