Lee-Curtis Childs pastors a megachurch. Or he did until he did something scandalous. Now, he wants his flock back in the pasture of his pastorate. So does his wife, Trinitie Childs, a child of God serving as so-called First Lady of Wander the Greater Paths Baptist Church in Atlanta
Lee-Curtis practices prosperity gospel, and Trinitie shepherds him along the wandering Way, the sorta Truth, and the neon Light. The Childses sit at a mesa-long dining table at supper. He chastises her for noisily scratching his MeeMaw’s china, then outlines his plans for “our Ren-Ay-Since.” She tries to calm his naive enthusiasm: He accepts no blame for the “slight unpleasantness” that cost them thousands of congregants and dollars and set up rivalry from the church up the street, Heaven’s House,.
Trinitie agrees that they should be filmed by the unseen Alice as part of their “ultimate comeback.” First stop: his Gatsby-like closet, arranged in rainbow colors, which would be Biblical if it were not so material. He salutes himself as a pastor in purple Prada. And if you think this is far-fetched, note that the real Rev. Carlton Funderburke assailed his Kansas City congregation for not supporting him in his style: “I’m not worth your Prada?” Funderburke demanded of the baptized this month.
Regina Hall, seen recently in television’s “Nine Perfect Strangers,” enlivens the role of Trinitie. St. Louis’ Sterling K. Brown portrays the preacher with jazz hands who mimes for Jesus. Although the film is sold as her story, the two leads are evenly cast. It’s hard to shift eyes from his bare chest to her screaming yellow dress, accessorized by a church hat and blue pumps. So vested, she stands on a curb with a sign imploring drivers to “honk for Jesus.” That’s her creative push to re-open their church.
Adamma Ebo wrote and directed “Honk for Jesus”; her sister Adanne co-produced the film with other producers including Brown, Hall, and Jordan Peele. The Ebos based the film on their growing up in a megachurch in the South in which they were not allowed to question the church’s mission. Adamma Ebo’s focus aims at churches that care more about building cash flow than following Jesus. She keeps her thumb on the scale of satire, pressing from comedy to darkness beyond anything that Christopher Guest managed in his mockumentaries. The result is not so much comedy as comeuppance with laughing suffocated by lashing.