Marking DreamWorks’ second NBC holiday spec of the season, “Merry Madagascar” is merry, all right — in a had-too-much punch, loud drunk at the Christmas party way. Like the “Monsters vs. Aliens” Halloween-themed half-hour, it’s a handsome but dizzyingly busy affair, with perhaps even less story — a slapstick headache of franchise-extending over-indulgence. Kids will probably enjoy the manic energy, but adults would be well-advised to seek refuge in other, less primitive primetime preserves.
The slim premise has the Madagascar group inadvertently shooting Santa Claus (voiced by Carl Reiner) out of the sky, leaving him with a bad case of amnesia and nobody to deliver the toys. So the New York zoo exiles — led by the lion Alex (Ben Stiller) — go about the task of filling in for St. Nick, while a loopy Santa cavorts with lemur King Julien (Danny Jacobs), imparting a lesson about the jolly joys of giving.
The one real highlight involves a long-simmering North-South Pole feud between those Madagascar Penguins (currently enjoying profitable TV life on Nickelodeon) and Santa’s reindeer, but that’s nearly lost amid the constant din and the percussive antics of the tiresome Julien.
Finally, one complaint unrelated to the special itself: A Christmas show that airs a week before Thanksgiving? While retailers have their own motivations for trying to move up the holiday window, at this rate, next year’s encore airing might have to be re-titled “Memorial Day Madagascar.”