There seems to be a built-in audience for animation beyond kids, of people nostalgic for Saturday morning cartoons or drawn to the technical marvel of a whole, populated world conjured out of thin air. And beyond fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, that's the audience writer-director Henry Selick will have to rely on for his film adaptation of the award-winning novella.

There seems to be a built-in audience for animation beyond kids, of people nostalgic for Saturday morning cartoons or drawn to the technical marvel of a whole, populated world conjured out of thin air. And beyond fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, that's the audience writer-director Henry Selick will have to rely on for his film adaptation of the award-winning novella.

Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) melds the traditional puppet animation of his previous works with CGI and 3D (not in all theaters, but worth looking for), and he makes it an extraordinary union. At times it looks like the lenticular cover from a vintage Golden Book come to life.

Yet this lovely style subsumes the dramatic weight of Gaiman's tale about bored little Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning), who finds a secret door in her family's new apartment and follows a womb-like passageway to an "other" world, where replicas of her parents with black button eyes dote on her instead of waving her off as they type away on their computers.

As Coraline discovers that her other family is, indeed, too good to be true and her real parents are in danger, Selick doesn't create momentum, just some new, really beautiful effects - also some imagery that could scare the bejeezus out of small kids. What's noticeably absent is the kind of wonder that penetrates past the eyes.