Coraline Jones (voice of DAKOTA FANNING) is an 11-year-old girl who's just moved away from her friends and comfortable life into the Pink Palace Apartments, situated in an old house, with her parents, Mel (voice of TERI MATCHER) and Charlie (voice of JOHN HODGMAN). Since they're preoccupied by writing text for a gardening magazine, Coraline is bored silly, especially since her mom won't let her go out and plant seeds in her garden, what with it raining and all.
The only other kid around, Wybie (voice of ROBERT BAILY, JR.), the grandson of the home's owner, is too weird to her to be her friend. The other tenants, former actresses turned eccentric spinsters April Spink (voice of DAWN FRENCH) and Miriam Forcible (voice of JENNIFER SAUNDERS) as well as retired but still active circus performer Mr. Bobinski (voice of IAN McSHANE) are also weird, but in a different way.
It seems the only one she identifies with is a new doll she's just received that looks like her. When it disappears, Coraline discovers it by a small hidden door in the wall that when opened reveals it's been bricked shut. That night, however, Coraline follows a mouse there to discover a tunnel that leads to an alternate world with an identical house.
Even the same people are there, albeit in somewhat altered form, including her Other Mother (voice of TERI HATCHER) and Other Father (voice of JOHN HODGMAN), as well as Wybie's feline, The Cat (voice of KEITH DAVID), that can speak here and is the only living creature not to possess buttons for eyes.
Save for the latter, Coraline thinks this is a perfect world, especially due to her ultra-attentive and eager to please parents. Accordingly, she's upset when she wakes up the next morning back in her old home with her distracted and busy parents. Yet, she manages to make it back to the other side again, finding it even more enticing than before. The only drawback is that Other Mother says they'll have to replace Coraline's eyes with buttons. From that point on, the girl must decide which world to choose, a point made easier by developments that turn more sinister as they unfold.