The modern word critical derives from the word "critic," meaning one who makes judgment.
In the arts and humanities, a "critical reading" or a "critical analysis" of a text does not necessarily mean making negative judgments, or even giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down kind of evaluation (which is more characteristic of a "review").
Instead, a critical analysis attempts to understand a work (like a novel or film) not simply as an imitation of life or a commercial product, but as a representation that has been constructed.
A critical analysis tries to explain in detail how that construction works (or not):
- what the construction consists of,
- how the parts and elements are brought together for effect,
- what that construction is intended to achieve,
- the effect that the construction has on an audience, or
- what influence that construction has on the world (on society, for instance, or in the world of film, or in the history of the modern American novel, or on the situation comedy as a genre, etc.).