• Eddie Adams couldn't be more common. The 17-year-old idles at school and works nights as a dishwasher in a disco. But Eddie, who believes "everyone's blessed with one special thing," is opulently endowed "down there in the Mr. Torpedo area," as an admirer says. At any other time in history, that would win a fellow not much more than respect in the barracks shower. But this is the 1970s, and porno films are big business. Folks looking at Eddie's endowment gawk as if it were the Washington Monument. He is pornography's future: the Holy Groin. Those 13 inches in his pants will make Eddie a big bright shining star. With a star's neon name: Dirk Diggler.

    Boogie Nights, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is itself a size freak; the movie is in love with bigness. It spends 2 hrs. and 32 min. spanning eight years in the lives of a dozen or so denizens of the porn biz. Loosely based on the life of John C. Holmes, porn's biggest male star, Boogie Nights has panoramic ambitions: a tapestry-style narrative, labyrinthine tracking shots, explosions of random, firecracker violence. Nashville meets GoodFellas meets Pulp Friction. The film doesn't quite get there, but it packs a wad of compelling entertainment on its road to triple-X oblivion.

    Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, relaxed and in charge) is a director with a dream: he wants to make a film that keeps customers in the theater even after they've been sexually satisfied. His lover and star, Amber Waves (a nicely wasted Julianne Moore), is almost as devoted to the son she never sees as she is to her cocaine stash. Rollergirl (Heather Graham, before whose beauty all gentlemen genuflect) performs sex on skates. And Eddie (Mark Wahlberg, a nice surprise) is just a dim, polite kid, not strong enough for the burden of stardom.

    They're the folks next door. They argue over money, worry about their kids, get crazy jealous of their loved ones. They have just this one eccentricity: they don't mind making the most intimate act of their lives a spectator sport. They see no reason to explain this, and neither does this defiantly noncommittal film. At the start, for example, Eddie is already exhibiting himself for money. We don't learn why he and Amber and Rollergirl descended into the netherworld of sexual showmanship; they have dwelt in that Valley from the start.

    This is no porn-biz expose. It shows no women lured into fornicating on film; it doesn't finger the Mafia as a crucial investor. When Eddie inevitably splits with Jack, he has nowhere to go; Jack is apparently the only director in pornland. Nor is there much eroticism; indeed, except for the film's final shot, where we get to see Eddie's penis (granted, a nifty prosthetic effect), Boogie Nights has little nudity--it's a sex film that stints on the sex. And Holmes, who died of AIDS in 1988, had a life far more bizarre and instructive than Eddie's.

    Mention these cavils to Anderson, and he might quote a line from the movie: "That's not an MP, that's a YP--your problem." He made his film, and a pretty good one, about a community of working stiffs; the people fascinate him more than their product. So here's a tip for those attending this handsomely acted, epic-length little film. Ease into the sleaze, stare at the party animals, look but don't touch, and, oh, boogie all night.