Where I Watched It: Peacock
English Audio Description?: Yes
Fun fact. Since losing my vision, I’ve cared a whole lot less about film trailers, since trying to find audio described versions of them is more frustrating than finding audio described content on some of these streaming platforms. So, when i saw that there was a film coming up called honk For Jesus starring Regina Hall and Sterling K Brown, I assumed it was a petty straightforward religious baiting drama in the vein of Heaven is For Real, Miracles From Heaven, and other studio concocted gems. The dead giveaway here was the presence of Brown, who is known so well as a dramatic actor.
Then we got this.
And, while I realize that I can’t really offer you perhaps the perspective you’re looking for about the black church experience, this film just made a lot of odd decisions. The first was to shoot in this mockumentary style that has worked so well for Christopher Guest, and has allowed many a sitcom to flourish, from The Office and Parks and Rec, to the new Abbott Elementary. Here, there’s very little fun brought to this element, as the film doesn’t ever quite decide what it wants to do.
The saving grace in this clutter is Regina Hall, who is quite literally up for anything, and even though the film shifts quite wildly in tone, she’s able to handle the comedic, whether it is overtly intentional or more of a wink-wink to the audience. She’s also a very undervalued dramatic audience, so when those moments need to sit, she’s able to really take those in as well. She’s quite possibly the only reason to watch this film, except for a few jokes at the expense of ridiculous televangelists who have had a reckoning coming for a long time.
On the other side, is one of those things I’d never thought I’d see come, which was a bad performance from Sterling K Brown. Brown, to me before this film, was one of those actors that is so good, that even when they get stuck in a bad film, you at least go “well so and so was good in it”. Or, even in the case of a bad film, an actor that understands the campy material at hand and delivers the kind of performance actually suited for the film.
Brown doesn’t really do any of that, except that because he never quite fits into his character, it does help that you really aren’t supposed to like him. His character is rebounding out of a scandal, and the point is to not like him. But I can’t help but think that there was a missed opportunity here to bring in someone like Eddie Murphy, who could ahve played perfectly opposite Regina Hall, while also likely being able to navigate this character, and the poor direction that desperately needed saved by a talented cast.
That didn’t happen. Instead, I got a lackluster film with only one truly redeemable factor, and it even had odd audio description that seemed to take far too many breaks. There were moments where I felt like I hadn’t heard the narrator in a bit, which happens a lot with sitcoms that are constantly spouting dialogue, but felt out of place here.
I know this is in theatres, where it didn’t do very well, but I think Universal/Focus dropping this day and date says about all you need to know, especially since they didn’t need the product on Peacock. It dropped the same weekend as Jurassic World Dominion, so a theatrical run only for this would ahve made more sense, yet the writing was already on the wall.
Final Grade: C-