(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
Chaplin once famously said, “All I need to make a comedy are a park bench, a cop, and a pretty girl.” Perversely, in In the Park, to that formula Chaplin adds the pretty girl’s boyfriend (Bud Jamison, beau to Edna Purviance), a pickpocket (Billy Armstrong), and a passionate couple (Leo White and Leona Anderson).
And the movie proves that adding more characters to the formula doesn’t add more fun, it just causes a traffic jam. This looks like Chaplin’s revisiting of Mack Sennett’s “park” comedies, but at any given time, there are so many people populating the screen, it’s hard to tell what Chaplin was getting at. Even Charlie can’t make up his mind what he wants to be: one moment he’s a hero (he saves a sausage vendor from getting robbed), the next he’s a villain (he steals the sausages himself).
(The best gag comes at the beginning: A pickpocket absent-mindedly gropes Charlie in an attempt to steal from him, so Charlie figures that turnabout is fair play and gropes the pickpocket.)
Already, Chaplin’s expansion upon simple themes in his previous Essanay comedies proved that he had more on his mind that revisiting old formulas. Even at only ten minutes, In the Park seems too lengthy.