Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake is, on the face of it, probably their best so far – certainly it feels like the most faithful attempt at a live-action version of their classic animated films. But does this tale as old as time still hold up? Is the story of a girl who falls in love with her kidnapper still one we should be telling in 2017?

I know making the “Beauty and the Beast is about Stockholm syndrome” point is pretty much on par with jokes about airline food by now, but the fact that we’re still being sold the same story suggests that people might not have quite realised why that matters yet. The animated film tends to get a pass because it came out more than 25 years ago (and don’t I feel old for saying that?) and because, well, it’s Disney – and let’s face it, Disney’s never had the best track record with feminism. Beauty and the Beast had its critics, but just the fact that they were willing to show a woman who liked to read and fell for someone who wasn’t conventionally attractive (when they met) tended to mean that its creepier aspects were ignored in favour of talking about how sexism in other classic Disney movies was more immediately apparent. But now we have a shiny new live-action version of the film that’s very faithful to the animated one, and while that’s kind of fun, guys, it presents a pretty big problem.

See, Disney has shown in the past that it’s willing to try updating its material when making these live remakes. Maleficent made a real effort with this – it deals with some pretty dark thematic material for what is ostensibly a children’s movie – and it’s a much more interesting film for it. But with Beauty and the Beast, it feels like someone wanted to play it safe. So they kept it as close as possible to the source material, and that means that on the one hand it has all the good things about the original – but on the other, it still has all the problems, and it feels like the studio didn’t really know how to address them.

I feel like they might have thought they were covering themselves against accusations of sexism by casting Emma Watson in the lead role – she’s one of Hollywood’s most visible young feminists at the moment, and I honestly believe she wouldn’t have taken on the role of Belle if she’d felt the movie was really promoting a sexist message. But this feels like a very passive defense – we get some extended dialogue in the opening scenes between Watson and Luke Evans’ Gaston in which Belle insists she doesn’t see herself as the marrying type, and certainly not to a man like him, but once she finds herself in the Beast’s castle the movie is pretty quickly back on track with the original, and the audience can literally sing along as the love story plays out. The Beast himself is no more complex of a character this time around – he’s still selfish, bad-tempered, aggressive – in other words, a pretty good stand-in for an abusive partner. True, both the live-action and the original animated films have montages of him ostensibly changing for the better, but this still has all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. In the real world, change is not an overnight thing, nor is it a smooth upward climb – best case scenario, there are bad days and slip-ups; worst case, the change is temporary or used to manipulate a partner into staying. So the movie is still selling an unrealistic portrayal of relationships to a young audience – remember, kids, if he shouts at you and locks you in your room, that’s okay! You just don’t love him enough! Keep trying!

To give credit where it’s due, I had the impression that the film was trying to portray Gaston as more of an outright villain in this adaptation – sure, in the original he tried to send Belle’s dad to an asylum, but in this version he outright tries to kill him – he’s more violent generally, not to mention more misogynistic and sexually aggressive. But although this might make Gaston look like more of a bad guy, it doesn’t necessarily fill the role of making the Beast look better – if anything, it comes across a little “not-all-men”ish, furthering the myth that a man can be “good” (in terms of not being sexist) simply by not being actively bad.

This is all something of a shame, because as I mentioned right at the start, the film is not bad – it’s the best straight adaptation of a Disney classic to live-action that they’ve made so far, and it manages to maintain all the best things about the original – the song and dance numbers are great, the cast all does a fantastic job in their roles, the film looks amazing (and benefits from having actual people in it to give viewers a break from the endless CGI, unlike, say, The Jungle Book), so I can’t bring myself to call this a bad movie. But it does feel… Unnecessary? Or perhaps uncalled-for. I can’t shake the feeling that in 2017 this is just not the story we should be seeing in a children’s movie.