Movie Review: ‘Honk for Jesus. save your soul

NEW YORK — Believing moviegoers should beware of a production called “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” (Focus). It turns out, however, that writer-director Adamma Ebo’s dispatch of African-American megachurches targets the misguided “prosperity gospel” and is therefore unlikely to offend adherents of more traditional versions of Christianity – at least in terms of irreverence.

Conphidance and Nicole Beharie star as Keon and Shakura Sumpter in “Honk for Jesus.” save your
Soul.” (Courtesy of Focus Features).

On the rebound from a sex scandal that has emptied their pews, wealthy and brash pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) and his long-suffering “First Lady” Trinitie (impressive Regina Hall) try a series of tactics to revive the impending reopening of their parish. These measures include filming a cinema-vérité style documentary, the directors of which adopt a strategy of non-interference and theft from the wall.

Along with other discouraging developments, the Childs face stiff, if barely concealed, opposition from Shakura and Keon Sumptor (Nicole Beharie and Conphidance). These latter spouses are the co-pastors of the competing house of worship to which the vast majority of the Childs’ former devotees have changed allegiance.

Ebo denounces Lee-Curtis’ hypocrisy both through his materialism—he loves expensive clothes, sleek sports cars, and even brags about owning a helicopter—and through the initially disguised nature of his transgressions. She also explores the fate of Trinitie, much more sensitive, sometimes smoking.

But the humor eventually wears thin and never blends in with the film’s more serious material, while an explicit bedroom scene makes Ebo’s fare piquant even for adults. So while he only derides the inherent contradiction in using the Bible as a get-rich-quick recipe—as well as the extravagant bad taste of at least one exaggerated religious image—“Honk” is unrestrained other ways that limit its appeal.

Look for: Sly satire and marital loyalty in difficult circumstances.

Attention : Semi-graphic marital love affairs, including an aberrant act, references to homosexuality, about half a dozen uses of profanity, a few milder swearings, many coarse terms, and occasionally coarse and coarse language.

The Catholic film buff’s advice is L – suitable for a limited adult audience. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

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