Albert Franklin (Haley Joel Osment) is the son of stage magician Lorraine Franklin, and has learned to do a few magic tricks of his own. However, when his mother dies and he is sent to live with his aunt Harriet (Whoopi Goldberg), it becomes clear that for him the boundary between stage magic and the real kind is just a bit fuzzy. This is fortunate, because the young man needs a friend. The friend magically appears in the form of a spirit (Gerard Depardieu) calling himself "Bogus," who helps him figure out how to meet the challenge of relating to his very preoccupied aunt. She is more concerned with keeping her restaurant supply company afloat than she is with her new ward. Things change when she, too, catches a glimpse of the spirit.