I honestly didn't really like the characters in Paranorman save for Norman and Agatha.
Neil was okay, and he fulfilled his role as the friend pretty well, but that's the point. It seems like that's his main purpose in the movie; his main identity is being Norman's friend. A lot of characters seem limited like this; the cheerleader, the jock, the bully, the skeptical dad...
Up to that point they had all been so simple and straightforward than when they stand up to protect Norman it feels a bit sporadic. They're decent human beings, I know, but it still kind of is.
Now, Norman and Agatha feel more real to me, and much deeper than the rest. It's not like they're Shakesperian or anything, but they have more substance.
The story, until the twist always seemed a bit dry to me. That's when it really gets going and it becomes a beautiful spectacle.
Coraline to me was much better elaborated on all aspects except for the twist; the Other Mother being nefarious wasn't that hard to see coming, but I really didn't expect the witch to be a child; that surprised me.
And yeah, the final confrontation between Agatha and Norman is gorgeous on every level; the writing, the scenery, the animation and that holy mother of god soundtrack.
To me, ParaNorman is a flawed movie with some genius moments, and Coraline is a beautiful movie which never trips and maintains a consistent quality.