This feels like the first film on drunk mode, for better and worse. As much as people deride the "formula" of the first, it at least builds to a stirring climatic moment that tie in the two arcs of Peter's past and his make-shift new family beautifully. This, on the other hand, throws so many mini-teamups and little arcs into the air, without a care in the world on how, with so little plot this time, they will fare in the end. They all have a nice thematic throughline about family, but personally I find about half of them get moved along and/or tied up in short melodramatic bursts and expositions that are far from satisfying, with none reaching the first one's high(s).
However, its more drunken enthusiasm has some merits. Without the more fixed formula of the first one, Vol. 2 contains even more of the delightful character moments and blissful hang-out vibe. Indeed, during the first half where there is no need to address the drama yet, I was thinking there is a good chance this might even surpass the first one, based on sheer joyful highs alone, with character combinations and chemistry paying off wonderfully non-stop. Maybe next time, if they have a chance for individual installments again, let's dispense with the big (melo)dramatic moments altogether if they are getting in the way of these characters hanging out.
Also, at least James Gunn seems more confident as a director this time out. More fluid, clearer direction, with even more popping colors and (big improvement over the first) beautiful compositions. This might be middle-of-the-road for the studio, but I have no trouble calling it the most gorgeous Marvel yet. 7-7.5/10