This may be a controversial opinion, but I genuinely think the sequel is better than the original. Sure, the first film had a slightly more unique plot, whereas TPD2 is very much a cookie-cutter romcom, but it still manages to be funnier, more interesting, and more entertaining. Plus, there's actually some diaries in this one, so the name makes genuine sense! To me, that all adds up to simply mean better.
Almost all of the main characters from the first film return, except young Schwartzman who is written out in a single line. I didn't mind his character, but I also feel no particular loss here. In many ways, seeing a female lead not to settle for the first on-screen romance is a refreshing departure. Plus, when the alternative is Chris Pine...😏
Speaking of which, part of the sequel's success was the casting of Pine and John Rhys-Davies, both of whom are great pantomime villains and foils for a great pantomime plot. I also really enjoy the fact that Gimli's son, who is a decorated Starfleet captain, has married Catwoman and now rules a small European country at her side 😂 To which point, another thing the sequel brings back is the surprising alt-history of Scotland, which is now not just an independent nation but also clearly a fairly prominent one on the world stage, adding further fuel to my theory that in this world Mary Queen of Scots was victorious, resulting in a version of the UK ran from Edinburgh instead of London. Oh, and it also brings back the slightly wonky CGI (though somehow uses less of it, despite the much more over-the-top locations).
The film is also a lot funnier. Whilst the original may have played its humour and characters a little closer to realism, the sequel just has fun with everything, giving us quotes like "But a very cute moose, make all the boy moose go 'WHAAAA!" 😂, plus scenes of the Queen mattress surfing, the excellent choir having to sing faster/slower as Mia comes down the aisle, and so many more. As I say, it's a pantomime and when viewed in that context possibly the best ever put to film, yet it also manages to have plenty of heart. Not only is the central message one entirely of empowerment, with a sequence of female characters that feel both believable and aspirational, but it also has some genuinely excellent moments. Joe, in particular, continues to be a standout character and his rebuttal to the Viscount is one of the best "hard man" lines I've ever heard:
Viscount: Sir, you will find that the word "fear" is not in my vocabulary!
Joe: Perhaps... but it is in your eyes.
Yes, there's still a little too much of the "ideal female fantasy" going on. Everything works out perfectly, Mia ends up becoming Queen and marrying a perfect man, there's even an all-princesses slumber party etc. etc. I mean, even her arranged husband-to-be would have been an over-the-top romantic ideal in many romcoms, but ultimately that's what The Princess Diaries are all about. In that context, the sequel smashes it out of the park.