Maybe I found the story weak because it had been done before in a 1956, John Wayne classic called The Searchers.
The Searchers is described as follows:
John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a former Confederate soldier who returns to his brother Aaron's frontier cabin three years after the end of the Civil War. Ethan still has his rebel uniform and weapons, a large stash of Yankee gold and no explanations as to where he's been since Lee's surrender. A loner not comfortable in the bosom of his family, Ethan also harbors a bitter hatred of Indians (though he knows their lore and language well) and trusts no one but himself. Ethan and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), Aaron's adopted son, join a makeshift band of Texas Rangers fending off an assault by renegade Comanches. Before they can run off the Indians, several homes are attacked, and Ethan returns to discover his brother and sister-in-law dead and their two daughters kidnapped. While they soon learn that one of the girls is dead, the other, Debbie, is still alive, and with obsessive determination, Ethan and Martin spend the next five years in a relentless search for Debbie -- and for Scar (Henry Brandon), the fearsome Comanche chief who abducted her.
If you substitute in some modern actors, change the confederate soldier part to Guy who goes to live with the Indians, the brother relationship for father-daughter, change the hates Indians to admires Indians, have the (grand)-daughter kidnapped and boyfriend killed and shorten the quest down to a week or two, you have essentially got The Missing.
Now, that may sound like a lot of changes but when you consider (1) how well a racist character would go over these days (and the chances of getting someone of Tommy Lee Jones status to play one), (2) the popularity of Dr. Quinn, (3)
nope, that is about all you have to consider to change The Searchers into The Missing.
However, unlike The Missing, The Searchers was destined to become an important movie. Considered by many to be one of, director, John Fords greatest movies (and Ford directed a LOT of movies). The Searchers was also one of (if not the) only movie where John Wayne played the role of a person of questionable moral character (i.e. a racist). In playing this anti-hero, Wayne was 20 years ahead of his time as it would not be until the 70s that Hollywood really got into using the protagonist of moral ambiguity (something we essentially take for granted these days). At the time The Searchers was made, the good guys wore white hats and always played it straight. By the time The Missing came out (2003), on the other hand, having a purely good protagonist would probably be considered a little boring. The last one I can think of seeing (off the top of my head) was Luke Skywalker and even he gets a bit morally ambiguous in the sequels.
So, overall, I would say that Ron Howard failed to do anything interesting with this movie that was basically stolen and then re-worked for 2003. Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchette gave great performances but, with the movie being pretty banal, there isnt much of a reason to watch them at it. If you absolutely love westerns and must see every new one that is made you may want to watch this movie. However, if you absolutely love either the principle actors or Ron Howards movies, I would say it is rentable. It is, after all, a good movie from a performance perspective, it just isn't a particularly good Western and I must wonder why Ron decided to make it at all.