I think the peak of my tiredness came with the dreadful Perfect Storm in 2000. I remember being so sick of seeing Clooney pop up as these boring, poker-faced, tediously noble action heroes. I hadn't seen his earlier B-movie efforts at the time, and the triple-threat of Batman & Robin, The Peacemaker and The Perfect Storm made me wish he'd never been born. (I had seen Three Kings, and honestly don't remember why that didn't change matters for me -- I think I wrote it off as a fluke, and was more impressed with Ice Cube anyhow.) What an anodyne heartthrob, I thought, with no personality or real talent. Get him out of my sight.
But then something happened. He started showing up in these quirky, one-of-a-kind roles that tweaked his superstar persona. The Coens discovered him, and used him to terrific effect in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty. He found the part of Danny Ocean, which would come to define his career in this decade. For my part, I caught up with 1998's Out of Sight, which I had unforgivably missed at the time. And I discovered something that came as a big shock to me: this guy is really, genuinely funny.
There's a wonderful moment early in this week's Leatherheads where Clooney, playing a professional football player in the 1920s, is running for the touchdown when he realizes that he is about to smash into a defenseman roughly three times his size. In the span of about a second and a half, we see him roll his eyes, steel himself, put his head down, and continue running. It's such a funny, endearing, self-effacing moment, and it epitomizes why I've come to appreciate the actor. He has a way of turning his staid, square-jawed image against himself that I find absolutely hilarious.
So: politics, schmolitics. Yes, he can still be a drag in more somber roles, even when the films are great. And I've never quite been able to wholeheartedly embrace anything he's directed himself, including Leatherheads. But so long as he keeps turning in these wonderful, loose, ego-free comedic performances, I'll remain in his corner. Even if he's a terrible Batman.