Regina Hall, star of Sterling K. Brown

You’ve probably seen roadside ministries; someone standing on the side of the street preaching through a megaphone, often holding a sign that says something like “honk if you love God”.

Director Adamma Ebo is aptly named new comedy-drama “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” is a satire of mega-church culture, but also a nuanced critique of the hypocrisy and abuse of power that plagues many organized religions and their leaders.

The film has an impressive roster of producers, including director’s twin sister Adanne Ebo and Daniel Kaluuya, who stars in “Nope” directed by Jordan Peele, whose company Monkeypaw Productions produced “Honk for Jesus.”

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the film, but anyone who grew up in “the church” will especially appreciate the intricacies.

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Scandal at Greater Paths mirrors real-life upheaval at megachurches

The film follows Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), the pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch who is extremely successful until a sexual misconduct scandal drives out most of his large congregation.

His wife and first lady of the church, Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall), remains by his side as they try to rebuild their church and their reputation. Childs hires a documentary crew to record his journey home, and most of the film is shown through that lens, cut with some behind-the-scenes moments.

The details of Childs’ misconduct are not spelled out at the start of the film, but more details about the victims and the settlement are revealed as the story progresses. I won’t spoil this, but the allegations are based on sadly widespread true stories.

Regina Hall stars as Trinitie Childs in "Honk for Jesus.  Save your soul." a Focus Features release.  See in theaters and on Peacock from September 2.

Mega Church War

It quickly becomes clear that the pastor and first lady are more obsessed with the fame and power that comes from performing than teaching the gospel, but they use the Bible to justify their extravagant lifestyles. Their huge closet in the church filled with extravagant suites and hats? Well, “God don’t like ugly.”

Lee-Curtis Childs has an almost literal god complex. It thrives on the attention, power and validation that comes from being on stage.

He talks a lot about how God forgave him for what he did, but not so much about how he’s sorry for his actions or concerned about how they affected his victims.

As he and his wife prepare to reopen on Easter Sunday, they find themselves at war with the city’s new, more modern mega-church, where their entire congregation (save for five faithful members) has gone after the allegations.

The church-running couple is played by Nicole Beharie, who was also in the new movie “Breaking” and Conphidance, star of “Little America,” and guest star on numerous TV shows.

Not only are the couple younger than the children, but they are also co-pastoralists, a fairly gradual development in a culture where only men are typically pastors.

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The director said the film was inspired by her own complicated relationship with organized religion. She acknowledged how pervasive the issues were and wanted to leave, but felt that “there’s still so much about it that I love and find beneficial and beautiful” and that “it’s not just to leave it all behind”.

This push and pull shines through in how Trinitie Childs feels about her relationship with Lee-Curtis. As she says, “I’d rather kill him than leave him.”

A near-perfect balance of comedy and drama

Sterling K. Brown as Lee-Curtis Childs in "Honk for Jesus.  Save your soul." a Focus Features release.  See in theaters and on Peacock from September 2.

The actors perfectly balance comedy and drama. Brown, who is best known for his dramatic acting in “This is Us,” excels as a comedic actor. And Hall, who is best known for her comedic roles in movies like “Girls Trip” and the “Scary Movie” series, is showing off her dramatic acting ability.

If we were to rate the movies out of 10 stars, I’d give “Honk for Jesus” a 7.5. But I’d probably rate it even more if it weren’t for the ending, which is abrupt and doesn’t allow for closure. An open end can be an effective tool, but in this case, it just made the movie incomplete.

I also would have preferred a true mockumentary format instead of the mostly documentary style but sometimes not.

None of these faults changing the fact that this is a very unique and entertaining movie.

“Honk for Jesus. Save your soul” 3.5 stars

Awesome ★★★★★ Good ★★★★

Correct ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★

Director: Adamma Ebo.

Cast: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, Nicole Beharie and Conphidance.

Evaluation: R for “sexual language and content”.

To note: In theaters and on Peacock from September 2.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or follow the reporter on Twitter @alexispotter_.

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