*Warning: This story contains some spoilers*
“Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul,” starring Hollywood veterans Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, features the story of a disgraced pastor and his first lady trying to make a major comeback after a scandal. It’s marketed as a comedy, but the movie reveals it’s a satirical masterpiece with dark humor.
Released on September 2 both in theaters and exclusively on the streaming platform Peacock, this R-rated comedy has garnered the attention of everyone. Just in time for Cinema Day, this film has simultaneously woken everyone up and confirmed the talent we already knew Hall and Brown possessed.
The lavish religious duo had attained admired status, mega-wealth and political power in some circles, but that quickly came crashing down as Brown’s character was exposed for sexual misconduct, notably not abuse, with former young male congregation members. This resulted in the temporary closing of their megachurch in the South and their social shunning. As a result, they desperately try to regain their power and 25,000 members.
The story is told from the lens of Anita, a documentarian, who set out to capture the “triumphant” attempt to rebuild their congregation and the return of Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) and First Lady Trinitee Childs (Hall). As her crew sets out to capture this return, they expose the inner workings of the Southern Baptist megachurch. Profanity, fights, theatrical exaggerations of the Bible, nuanced church jokes and “Knuck If You Buck” were featured, but some viewers think this film hit too close to home. In other words, the saints are not pleased.
However, most speculate this was the very purpose of the film. Churches have historically been the center of the Black community and packed with seemingly positive authoritative figures. Despite this, there have been many reports of sexual misconduct and abuse in this alleged safe space. The film takes a comedic angle to tell a very real story for a lot of young people.
Older audience members, alive to remember the story of deceased Bishop Eddie Long, think this film is deliciously close to giving a bigger platform to that story. The similarities are astounding, specifically the fact that both Childs and Long use their amassed wealth to seduce and then groom young men by using cars, designer sneakers and clothes to lure them into their predatory trap. It also reveals how the church often reacts so strongly, to say the least, to homosexuality only to have their leaders exercise the same urges immorally and illegally. These known parallels, in addition to the ones that have flown under the radar, add to the film’s satirical power.
Audiences have ample opportunity to laugh at silly moments, such as the classic Baptist miming to Hezekiah Walker, arguments between pronouncing “Amen” and “Amen” and more, but this is undoubtedly a segway to further conversation about the church.
Regina Hall is no stranger to comedic timing, technique and overall hilarity, but this role allowed her to toe the line between a serious issue in the church community and the lighthearted moments in life. Her role as a first lady that stuck by her husband through several counts of sexual misconduct has many speculating an Oscar nomination.
Twitter, the land of infinite possibilities and discourse, has been home to a lot of commentary and critique surrounding the Jordan Peele executive-produced film. While the film’s main character is Pastor Lee-Curtis, consumers are focusing on First Lady Trinitee. The role of a first lady in a mega church, or any church, is one that requires both a big hat and big girl panties. It can take a toll on one’s mental health and sense of self as Hall’s performance reveals. Her character was expected to endure the actions and consequences of her husband’s gross misbehavior and stand right by him to fix it – a role a lot of Black women are forced to endure.
As a whole this movie, like many others, has satirical foundations that serve a greater purpose: to entertain but to also inform and call out inappropriate practices. The title says honk, but really this is the sound of an alarm.