Aren’t the nineties supposed to be back? Chokers and crop tops abound, trainers are chunky and blindingly white and jeans have gone quite unfortunate again. But the throwback memo has failed to penetrate every consciousness because in the 1990s The Addams Family were fantastic and here in 2021 they suck. Somehow worse than the forgettable first, The Addams Family 2 is every generic school holiday film crammed into really unappealing packaging. Spare yourself.

Wednesday Addams (voiced by Hit-Girl herself, Chloë Grace Moretz) and her Rubix Cube solving octopus Socrates have every reason to be the centre of attention at her school science fair. Her work on inter-species transference is impressive indeed and might be just the boost Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) needs to distract from his heartache… Cue the arrival of the only reason Wednesday might have to want to go unnoticed; her family.

Trailing chaos in their wake and shaming the emo tween with their enthusiasm and mere existence, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) disagree on the best way to bring their recalcitrant firstborn back into the fold. Morticia is in favour of a hands-off approach (no Thing pun intended) but for Gomez, only a family road trip can allow the Addams clan to reconnect, so they fire up their steampunk RV and hit the road.

(Un)naturally, nothing in the Addams family’s orbit is entirely as it seems and Gomez has an ulterior motive for the getaway. A question over Wednesday’s true parentage has arisen and he is as keen to escape his own doubts as the relentless men pursuing them. The notion of leaping from the Burton-esque family tree and starting again appeals to Wednesday’s cravings for a twisted origin story. She is further tempted by the suggestion that this prospective father could be her intellectual equal and takes a detour to do some research of her own…

It is always a pleasure to spend time with Wednesday Addams but she, like Morticia, has been diluted almost beyond recognition and played by Moretz with such monotony that it is hard to focus on her words. Beyond this, the writing is just bad; ping-ponging through a series of sketches rather than creating a cohesive narrative one can actually follow. The character design doesn’t help with the lack of cohesion, gone is the vintage glamour and gothic elegance that made the Addamses so appealing. Instead, we have a curious mix of gurning caricatures and hollow shells.

It is also mind-boggling to see the roll call of dynamic actors in the closing credits and realise that their delivery has entirely failed to capture your attention for the past hour and a half. Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen and Susanna Fogel are responsible for the meandering screenplay and its woeful lack of darkness but Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon helmed this sinking ship – as shoddy as Captain Jack Sparrow’s – and they should have scuppered it. It does a great discredit to the Addams name to have something so bland in the world.

The inhabitants of Hotel Transylvania (itself a pretty mediocre franchise) should be eating The Addams Family’s dust but, woefully, it is quite the reverse. Family loyalty and spooky solidarity have always been defining characteristics of the Addamses but those too have been thrown out of the mullioned windows. Fish out of water gags, explosions and Fester’s cephalopod secret are no compensation. When even Bill Hader can’t raise a chuckle and you have to keep breaking out The D.O. Double G to wake your audience up, you aren’t worthy of speaking The Addams Family name.

The Addams Family 2 comes to cinemas on October 8th