In 2018, writer/director Adamma Ebo, with her sister Adanne serving as a producer, released the satirical short, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. The film obviously got the attention of actors Sterling K. Brown, Regina Hall, Daniel Kaluuya, and actor/filmmaker Jordan Peele, because these talented artists are among the names of the producers of the feature-length version of Adamma Ebo’s story. While the short film definitely packs a bite and delivers hearty laughs in the process, it seems that Ebo and her big name supporters are hoping to reach more audiences with the full-length movie. It certainly helps that gifted actors Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown have taken on the lead roles. But the main question is, can an extended version of a sharp and funny short film still land the same impact? Well, that is what I am here to discuss.

For those unfamiliar with the short film, the feature version has the same story as its basis, and pretty much every scene that is in the short is in the new movie. Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall star as Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs and “First Lady” Trinitie Childs, the leaders of a once popular/successful megachurch that has recently lost a bulk of their congregation due to a controversial scandal involving the pastor and a young adult member of his church. While the Childs had to deal with their legal problems, the church has remained closed. However, as the troubles have started to get somewhat “resolved,” the Pastor and his wife begin preparing for a grand re-opening on Easter.

As an attempt to improve their public image and, hopefully, repair any damage the scandal has caused, the Childs have hired a documentary filmmaker and crew to help paint a more positive portrait of the couple and the work they are doing to rebuild their church following. While Pastor Childs seems passionate and enthusiastic about his work and mission, and seems to have the full support of his loving partner, the documentary proves to be quite revelatory when it comes to the real intentions and desires of these religious leaders.

I went into this movie quite blindly, as I had never seen any trailers for it, nor had I watched the short film that inspired it. I have since watched the short and feel that that version is slightly better. I do, very much, like the feature movie, but feel that short more efficiently and effectively strikes to the heart of its goal. That said, I think that the full-length version of Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is a sharp satire that sometimes gets marred by its silliness and goofiness. Some of the scenarios and comic gags seem better suited for a cartoonish spoof, rather than a satire with a more serious agenda. When the film finally deals with the metaphorical elephant in the room the tonal shift just feels odd and out of place, give how goofy some of the situations that preceded it are.

I feel that filmmaker Adamma Ebo is gifted filmmaker with something valid to say, but she seems to be having trouble with how to say and present it. It’s like this movie has an identity crisis. It spends so much time being silly and ridiculous, but when its time to get real, it doesn’t completely work. And that is not to say that I didn’t laugh heartily at times, because I most certainly did. I believe that the movies climax and resolution should have gone in a different direction. Yet on the other hand, had all of the shenanigans in the first acts played out with a different, more subtle tone, perhaps this movie’s ending could have worked.

Anyway, I have digressed way too much on these elements. On the more positive end of the spectrum. I absolutely marveled at the performances of both Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall. Regardless of the tone in their scenes, these lead actors nail their performances every time. If there is a definitive reason to see this movie, it would be to see these stars shine.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul is now playing in theaters, but this is one movie I would recommend waiting to watch on television at home. If not at all interested in this movie after my review, I would still encourage one to watch the short film of the same title. I feel that it nails its target in a more impactful way.

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