So much has changed in the 18 years since Paul Thomas Anderson’s porno world epic. Anderson was then an acolyte of Altman and Scorsese, wearing his influences flamboyantly on his sleeve. Now he’s found his own, deeply eccentric voice. Back then Mark Wahlberg was not considered a serious actor; now he’s someone who, well, one sometimes takes seriously. And Burt Reynolds was on the skids, stuck in DTV hell, in desperate need of a comeback that would prove he had a powerful, weathered gravitas. And now…well, he’s back in DTV hell, and also bankrupt. (Still, great "Archer" episode.)
Even if it’s oversaturated with look-at-me long takes that sometimes ring hollow (and sometimes really are nifty), “Boogie Nights” is at least endearingly derivative — a hungry kid’s precocious wooly mammoth that can’t keep from overstuffing itself with pure stuff. Even at its bleakest, especially in the grim second half, it's infectious fun. And sometimes Anderson does find his voice among the rattle. Nothing from more mature Anderson greats like “Punch-Drunk Love,” “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master” can top this one's Alfred Molina bit, where Marky Mark, John C. Reilly and Thomas Jane attempt to rip off his coked-up hellion, who won’t let obvious shifty-eyed junkies keep him from playing air-drum to Night Ranger. It was clear this Anderson kid was going somewhere, and yet he still surprised us all with just where.