By Mary Milliken
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If Reese Witherspoon showed she can go raw and unglamorous in the drama "Wild," in her new comedy, the actress dons sensible shoes and big underwear to play the uptight cop to Sofia Vergara's voluptuous widow in teetering heels.
"Hot Pursuit," opening Friday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, is a buddy comedy by women, about women, and mostly for women, and it started when Witherspoon - wearing her producer's hat - saw the potential of a comic pairing with Vergara.
"She's very fresh," said Witherspoon of the star of ABC television hit "Modern Family." "I think she is one of the great comedy voices out there representing a whole other side of women and comedy."
One a short, blond and blue-eyed American, the other a tall, curvaceous Colombian, together they set out to create an even odder couple of characters.
Officer Cooper is in charge of protecting Daniella Riva, a mobster's trophy wife turned widow, as they are chased by corrupt cops and drug cartel henchmen through Texas. They are at odds most of the time, tumbling through scenes of physical comedy, such as Cooper's inadvertent snorting of cocaine.
"I love when there are two completely polar opposite people coming together having to figure out how to get out of a situation," said director Anne Fletcher, noting that Witherspoon and Vergara had chemistry "ten-fold."
While some critics have praised the Witherspoon-Vergara combination, most have panned the film and its gags, calling it a pale imitation of the successful female buddy comedy "The Heat."
Nevertheless, the $35 million film from New Line, MGM and Witherspoon's company Pacific Standard could benefit from interest from female moviegoers and earn $18 million in its opening weekend.
Witherspoon, winner of an Oscar for best actress, made her mark in comedy early in her career as teen overachiever Tracy Flick in "Election" and sorority queen Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde."
Through Pacific Standard, she aims to create more films and roles for women, such as "Wild," which earned her a second Oscar nomination.
"I think we are continuing the path of 'The Heat' and 'Bridesmaids' and it's a great time to be a woman in comedy," said Witherspoon.
Vergara said she is grateful to Witherspoon for the opportunity but could not help delighting in her co-star's "ridiculous" Spanish in the movie.
"I wanted her to suffer and struggle ... so she knows what I go through in every scene of my life," said Vergara.
(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)