'Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul' finds dark satire in a disgraced megachurch
Adapted from a film short into a movie, "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul" exhibits the strain of the magnification process -- as premises go, feeling a little light in terms of the collection plate.
The central performances, however, make this dark satire awkwardly watchable, with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall as the disgraced pastor and his wife desperately plotting a comeback.
"Pastor Childs, are the allegations true?" Brown's Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs is asked near the outset, while leaving the specifics of the scandal purposefully vague for much of the movie.
The details are actually relatively insignificant, as the relentlessly upbeat pastor and his wife Trinitie (Hall) work to rebuild their Atlanta megachurch,
which once boasted thousands of parishioners, planning a triumphant reopening on Easter Sunday.
In what looks like an act of hubris, the Childs have also invited a documentary crew to tag along, fly-on-the-wall style, as they go about the process,
although there are enough uncomfortable moments that they frequently find themselves speaking directly to the unseen filmmakers, asking them to leave out certain material.
That device represents the kind of thing that student filmmakers use, and writer-director Adamma Ebo -- who produced the film along with her twin sister
might have dispensed with it in this format, though it does serve the purpose of forcing Brown and Hall to keep smiles plastered across their faces
while tension simmers just beneath the manicured surface as they see their empire slipping away.