Welcome To Chippendales Review: Kumail Nanjiani Is Great In This Overlong True Crime Limited Series

The story of the Chippendales dancers is far more intense and scandalous than one might expect it to be. While the troupe today is known for the shirtless gyrating and silky-smooth chests of its dancers, it is also a company plagued by the things founder Somen "Steve" Banerjee did to fuel its meteoric rise. Nothing was off limits for the business owner as he chased his version of the American Dream. Human lives didn't even matter, as long as they had wronged him in some way.

A story that is truly stranger than fiction, it's now been turned into "Welcome to Chippendales," the latest biographical limited series from Hulu. Having immigrated to the United States from India, Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) envisions himself as a businessman along the likes of Hugh Hefner. However, he realizes that achieving such success isn't as easy as simply buying an abandoned club and hosting niche events. When he crosses paths with Emmy-winning choreographer Nick De Noia (Murray Bartlett), his fledgling business turns into a sexual empire. Unfortunately, that fame is poised to turn into infamy in all the wrong ways.

"Welcome to Chippendales" is certainly better than most cookie-cutter true-life stories being produced nowadays, especially due to Nanjiani's electric performance. Unfortunately, it suffers from having an overstretched story that doesn't justify the number of episodes the series has.

'Do you think fairy tales still happen today?'

The initial setup of the Chippendales business is very much that of a fairy tale. Despite the struggles Banerjee faces, he's still able to negotiate his way into building an empire. It's the quintessential American Dream, building something successful from nothing. The first episode of "Welcome to Chippendales" establishes this upfront as we see Banerjee meet new business partners that eventually help him find success. One of these people is Paul Snider (Dan Stevens), a man who claims to be an influential club manager but who ends his appearance on the show dead after killing his estranged wife Dorothy Stratton (Nicola Peltz) in a fit of abusive rage.

Despite his relatively short appearance, Snider is worth mentioning because he helps represent one of the greatest strengths of "Welcome to Chippendales." Each episode slowly peels back layers of just how messed up the company and Banerjee's tactics really are, making each one end like a gut punch. In the case of Snider, he first appears as a cocky but ultimately successful ally to Banerjee, but as the episode progresses, we get to see him turn out to be an abusive fraudster. With each episode, "Welcome to Chippendales" lures you in with the promise of something fun and sexual, only for that facade to be slowly torn away. Sure, we should probably start recognizing this pattern as the show continues, but it is just too captivating to turn away from.

Striving for greatness, no matter the cost

Part of what makes this show so compelling is the strong, albeit appropriately awkward performances its ensemble brings. Bartlett as the doomed Chippendales choreographer De Noia is as charming as ever, being the primary source of a lot of both the show's levity and emotion. Analeigh Ashton and Juliette Lewis also charm as the company's accountant and costume designer, respectively.

Ultimately, though, it is Nanjiani's Banerjee that stands as the series's best performance. It's hard to say that his evolution is straightforward, as we see early on that he has a bit of selfishness that grows as the series progresses. However, Nanjiani portrays him in a nuanced manner that doesn't ignore his misdeeds but doesn't allow them to define him. The show's version of Banerjee is not unlike the fabled Icarus, whose ambitions and lust for greatness ultimately consume him until he flies too close to the sun. You just can't help but feel sorry for the guy, but you may end up questioning why you do in the first place.

Not all that glitters is gold

While the show certainly will certainly hook you, it would probably be just as compelling if it were around four or five episodes. However, "Welcome to Chippendales" stretches across ten, and it's frankly hard to justify that length. Even though the rise, fall, and rebranding of Chippendales is an interesting idea for a limited series, it's not interesting enough to be told over ten 45-minute episodes. This has become a pretty major issue with true crime and other biographical miniseries released over the past few years, making them seem far too repetitive for their own good, and it's disappointing to see this series fall into the same trap.

There is also something to be said about how the show looks on a visual level. The lighting of each scene lacks depth, making its subjects flat at best and completely shadowed at worst. Sure, you can make the excuse of the actual Chippendales clubs being purposefully dark, but this carries into other sets as well. It just isn't interesting to look at, and when you consider that the overarching subject of this limited series are the Chippendales, that seems like a wasted opportunity.

Despite all of this, "Welcome to Chippendales" might be worth the journey if you're willing to allow it. The cast and its strong usage of dread are strong enough to keep viewers intrigued for the next episode, even if the show is lacking in the visual department. So, are you all ready to have a good time?

"Welcome to Chippendales" premieres on Hulu on November 22.