Gutsy, Brainy and Grouchy Smurf in“The Smurfs.” (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation)

It seemed like “Cowboys & Aliens” would have to battle red-white-and-blue hero “Captain America” for the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office. But it turns out that Daniel Craig’s most serious movie-ticket-selling competition came from a bunch of blue Smurfs.

“The Smurfs” — the poorly reviewed family film that gratuitously uses the word smurf in a variety of contexts — tied “Cowboys & Aliens,” director Jon Favreau’s much-hyped adaptation of the graphic novel, for the No. 1 spot at the box office. Both films earned an estimated $36.2 million over the weekend.

What does this mean? How did this happen? Can the Smurfs solve the debt crisis? Let’s attempt to answer these questions (well, maybe not that third one) after the jump.

The anemic opening for “Cowboys & Aliens”: A $36.2 million debut for a movie that started building buzz at last year’s Comic-Con — and boasted stars Craig and Harrison Ford, as well as pedigreed producers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer — is disappointing to say the least, and may reflect the public’s confusion about exactly what kind of film this would be: Western? Sci-fi? Campy? Serious?. It also could be alarming for another reason. As the L.A. Times points out, its opening was on par with that of “Super 8,” one of the only other high-profile summer films that wasn’t a sequel or related to a pre-existing franchise. Will this soft opening mean even fewer original stories get greenlit in Hollywood for future summer movie consumption? Let’s hope not.

“The Smurfs”? Really?: As shall we say smurfy as the movie may have been, it appealed to little kids and their Gen X parents who still have fond-ish memories of watching “The Smurfs” ‘80s-era Saturday morning cartoon. It was also the first family film to be released in a couple of weeks, was well-marketed and came at a moment when some families may have needed some relief from the heat, so timing may have helped it exceed expectations. And of course, let’s not underestimate the enduring appeal of Smurfette.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” does adequate, just fine, respectable business: The other new release of the week, the rom-com starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore, opened in fifth place with $19.3 million. That more or less matched expectations for the movie, which appealed to slightly more adult filmgoers than “Cowboys” or “Smurfs.” (63% of the audience for “Cowboys & Aliens” was over the age of 30, while 71% of the “Crazy” audience was over 25.)

The top five movies of the weekend, based on studio estimates, were:

1. “Cowboys & Aliens” — $36.5 million (tie)

1. “The Smurfs” — $36.5 million (tie)

3. “Captain America: The First Avenger” — $24.9 million

4. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” — $21.9 million

5. “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” — $19.3 million

What will (or tie with something else) at the box office next weekend? Predict below.