There are a handful of movies that are actually better than the book. This is not one of them.
Not that this movie is bad. I actually recommend it. But I recommend you see it with the correct intentions.
Watch this movie for the animation. It's beautiful and the 3D is tasteful and subtle. The voice acting is spot-on and the musical score fits the quirkiness of the movie brilliantly. The storyline of a lonely child misunderstood by her parents is one many of us can relate to and the "other" world that Coraline stumbles upon is portrayed as creepy and disconcerting.
But if you want a disturbing story that touches upon the dark side of love and entrenches you in a scarily desirable alternate reality, skip the movie and read the book.
The genius of Neil Gaiman is that he writes these "children's" books with an adult-like directness. He doesn't conceal or water down the eerie, nor make it into a life lesson. He simply does what he does best, tells a story with such uncanny charm that you are haunted for days after turning the last page and it never occurs to you that you just read a book recommended for those aged 8 and up.
The problem with this movie is that it tries too hard to stay a children's story. The bright colors and special effects, while pretty, dilute the chills that should run up your spine as the story unfolds. This would almost be acceptable if the movie was a 100% kid movie, but it somehow manages to keep one foot in the adult genre resulting in a cheese factor that is highly regrettable to a die-hard Gaiman fan like myself.
While A. O. Scott praises the slower pace of this production, I prefer the quicker pace of the book. There was a lack of suspense as the movie reminded the viewers again and again that Coraline felt lonely and neglected. The resolution then felt a bit rushed and anti-climatic, and as mentioned before, a bit cheesy (the audience, all adults, actually started to laugh at one of the key plot points).
It's been a few years since I read this book, and after watching the movie I felt such a flat response that as soon as I got home I grabbed the book off my shelf and started rereading it. I was instantly drawn in to Gaiman's writing and had to force myself to stop reading it so that I could get some sleep. I was relieved to remember how magical this story is, as I felt a little unsure after last night's viewing.
That all said, if you have NOT read the book, the movie is sure to be a different experience and I DO recommend seeing it for yourself. In fact, I say check out the interactive website first (which adds a fun element when you get to watch the scenes you played with online), see the movie in the theater if you can spare the $14.50 for the 3D as the most successful aspect of the movie is the animation, wait a month or so, then read the book. And let me know what you think.