(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
While The Rink is a truly marvelous comedy, I’m not sure that laughter is even the proper response for it. The movie’s first half, with Charlie as a waiter causing confusion among customers and staff alike, seems not to have been directed so much as choreographed. He flitters in, out, through, and around the restaurant as though on wings, and God only knows how Chaplin managed to convey the directions for this stuff to his cast. And this is before we even get to the skating rink.
Once we get there, we find that philanderous Mr. Stout (Eric Campbell) has designs on a pretty rink customer (Edna Purviance), but once Charlie arrives on the scene, Edna and pretty much the whole place surrenders to him. There’s no justice in describing this; you have to see it for yourself.
The only weak part of the movie is the final third, where Edna invites Charlie and all of the other characters to her skating party that evening. It’s hardly painful, but it’s superfluous and goes to a lot of trouble to tie up plot strands you didn’t care much about to start with. That said, its existence gives an excuse for the movie’s beautiful final shot, with Charlie skating right out of the rink and onto the street, and using his cane to hitch a ride from a passing car. Somewhere out in L.A., you imagine, Charlie is still nonchalantly wheeling by his more earth-bound inhabitants.